Queensland farmers accused of defying federal order to cease clearances

27.11.2017

Cleared land on the Wombinoo property Photo: Wilderness Society

Farmers in Queensland are suspected of defying a federal government order to cease clearing land in a barrier reef catchment area which hosts several endangered species.

In 2015, landowners in Wombinoo received permission under lenient state laws to clear more than 3,000 hectares (ha) of native forest, to cultivate avocadoes and grow silage for their cattle operation. 

They felled 560ha before the federal government intervened, drawing on a rarely used regulation requiring activities of “national environmental significance” to be assessed by the federal authorities.

No approval was granted for further clearing. The previous clearing was judged to require investigation, as it threatened endangered species including the greater glider and koalas

However, footage has emerged allegedly showing a further 60ha of clearing between March and April this year. Lawyers have written to federal and state governments on behalf of the Wilderness Society, flagging up the clearing and asking what action will be taken.

Landowners told the Guardian all relevant approvals had been secured before any clearing took place.

“As a producer we’re sick of people like [the Wilderness Society] trying to stop productivity in this bloody nation and that’s why we’ve got a deficit going up at $20,000 a second,” one of the owners of the property said.

Deforestation rates in Queensland jumped 33% in 2016, part of an environmental crisis which has made the state the only  “global deforestation hotspot” in the developed world. Earlier this year, Earthsight reported on 100ha of unauthorised clearance on a cattle ranch in Cape York.

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