Opposition over tollway, tree-clearing grows


Opposition over tollway, tree-clearing grows

By Bill Mason

BRISBANE — The state government's controversial South-East Tollway and tree-clearing guidelines remain major problems for the re-elected Goss government.

Transport minister Jim Elder is reported to be reconsidering the tollway in the aftermath of Labor losing four seats in the Brisbane-Gold Coast tollway belt in last month's election. Elder, who had earlier opposed the tollway, has ordered a new submission to state cabinet to be prepared "in the not too distant future".

Representatives of the anti-tollway group, VETO, have welcomed the reconsideration. However, business groups and some Labor parliamentarians are pushing hard for the motorway.

Meanwhile, conservation organisations have attacked the primary industries minister, Bob Gibbs, for his comments to a farmers' meeting on August 2 that the government's tree-clearing guidelines had been a "poor decision", based on "non-professional" advice from the conservation movement. Rural groups had campaigned against the guidelines, announced in February, which provide for up to 80% of some species of trees to be retained in some areas.

Australians for Animals spokesperson Sue Arnold said that voters were witnessing a government prepared to ignore environmental concerns. This was the result of leading conservation groups getting into bed with the government before the election, she said.

Conservationists have campaigned strongly for the tree-clearing guidelines since studies confirmed that up to 500,000 hectares of land were being cleared annually in Queensland.