BY ROBYN MARSHALL
BRISBANE — On November 13, Louise Matthiesson of the Wilderness Society addressed a public meeting in New Farm to highlight the lack of action by Premier Peter Beattie's Labor government on stopping land clearing.
In May, the Queensland government and the federal Coalition government put forward a proposal to phase-out broad-scale land clearing of remnant bushland in rural Queensland by 2006. A moratorium on land clearing in Queensland would be imposed and there would be a phase out of approvals for new applications for clearing of mature bushland.
If implemented, the proposal would protect 20 million hectares of native bushland. However, the two governments are yet to approve the proposal.
Since the land-clearing moratorium was announced in May, permission has been granted to clear at least 60,000 hectares of native bushland. "The state and federal governments let the public believe that the moratorium would stop the bulldozers, but that is far from the truth", said Matthiesson. "740,000 hectares of applications were lodged before the moratorium was announced, and those are still being processed, so not much has changed out there on the ground."
Queensland has been losing native bushland faster than any other state. Over the last decade, 400,000 hectares has been cleared every year. About 95% of all land clearing in Queensland is carried out to make new paddocks for cattle grazing, 4% is cleared for housing and 4% for crops such as sugar cane.
Applications have been made for some 5000-10,000 hectares to be cleared in one operation alone. Some nine out of 10 applications are given permission by the state government.
For every tree planted, at least 100 trees are destroyed by land clearing.
As a result of clearing, some 19,000 koalas are killed ever year. For each hectare of bush that is cleared, 20 birds, five mammals and 200 reptiles will be killed. That adds up to 100 million animals killed every year in Queensland.
Land clearing is also causing dryland salinity. Already, 100,000 hectares are affected by salt in various parts of Queensland.
Furthermore, the destruction of trees through land clearing is exacerbating the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the proposed plan to stop broad-scale land clearing would not protect important regrowth bushland that might be needed to prevent salinity or protect rare plants and animals.
From Green Left Weekly, November 26, 2003.
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