Does the National Party Stand for Destroying What is Left of the Bush? - 3 September 2006
Some areas are dozed In other areas, all trees have been poisoned Cleared banks of Fitzroy River The Queensland State Elections are to be held next Saturday (9 Sept 2006). One of the areas where the parties clearly differ is in their stance on land clearing. Legal land clearing is being phased under the current government in 2006. The National-Liberal Party Coalition would like to reverse or greatly water down the Vegetation Management Act which is the Act that prevents new land clearing without a permit and an acceptable reason such as to allow for essential infrastructure. Clearing for agriculture and clearing for development in non-urban area are currently not allowed under the Act.The Act in my view is one of the great triumphs of the Beattie government. It signals the drawing to a close the period of Australia’s development when the bush was an enemy to be conquered and destroyed and the begining of a more symbiotic approach to land use where linkages are formed between people, productivity and the natural environment. Land clearing in most of Queensland has already been so extensive that very little natural vegetation remains. Additional clearing will have drastic consequences such as causing environmental breakdown and extinction of many plants and animals. In past few years in many places, all tree cover has been removed from the banks of major rivers. Removing trees from river banks and river flats destabilises river channels causing erosion of the banks and sedimentation of the river bed. This effect can be dramatic, with narrow deep rivers that always flow growing into broad sandy rivers that only have surface flows in floods. One river in Victoria grew from 6 m wide to 150 m wide. That single incident of channel widening would have swallowed a huge area of productive river flats, killed of the local Murray River Cod population and helped to fill any water impoundments on the river with sand. Another threat is salinity. Tree clearing in the Darling Downs is banned because there is less than 25% of the original tree cover in the catchment and this is less than is required to prevent salinity impacting on Queensland’s best farmland. Salinity occurs when trees are not able to pump up groundwater and the groundwater flows increase and start carrying buried salt back to the surface. Clearing related impacts such as these threaten the productivity of the land that we depend upon.The map below is of Fitzroy Shire which surround Rockhampton. Some of the local National Party members are still pushing for land clearing but what is left to clear? On the map below, the large areas of green on the map are mainly mangrove swamp or bush on the flanks of a mountain range. Even if everything that could be cleared was cleared and pressed into production, this would only increase agricultural production by a few percent and would probably be temporary as most uncleared areas are unsuitable for sustainable agriculture (that’s why they were not cleared before now). I hope that even the Nationals start to realise that supporting more land clearing is an environmentally, socially and economically bankrupt policy. The map below is a remnant vegetation map similar to those produced by the Queensland Government. The data is the most recent data and was captured by satellite in 2003. Three categories of remnant native vegetation are recognised. 'Not of Concern at Present' indicates that more than 30% of the original pre-European settlement extent of the vegetation remains. 'Of Concern' vegetation types only have between 10-30% remaining. 'Endangered' vegetation types were rare to start with or have been reduced to less than 10% of their original extent. Fitzroy Shire is 130 km from east to west.