Members’ Newsletter 24th September 2015

24th September 2015

Vegetation Management Act

Environmental groups The Wilderness Society (TWS) and WWF are involved in an escalated campaign started last week to pressure the Qld ALP Palaszczuk government to reinstate the full, draconian and worst of the Vegetation Management Act (VMA).  They are clearly becoming increasingly frustrated that the government has not acted upon their representations following frequent visits to government Ministers.

The reason that the 2013 Newman government’s amendments to the VMA have not been overturned thus far is because they were considered, restrained, and sensible reforms that restored basic human rights to landowners and took away some of the more onerous provisions that placed landowners not just under disadvantage but unjust victimisation.

In this article the statements by the TWS are misleading at best and to suggest that the ALP Beattie government VMA was a compromise that farm groups agreed to is an insult –

Important privacy & commercial in-confidence concerns

WWF have targeted individual farms and landowners, and are sufficiently cashed up to buy real time satellite imagery and research aircraft that they direct against landowners who they allege are carrying out illegal clearing or even legal clearing which WWF would prefer was illegal.

WWF have collated and made available on a public website detailed information including name, address and GPS coordinates about individual landowners with high value agriculture permits with disregard to any privacy concerns for the individual.  (See quote below)  The general public entrusts information to Government for specific purposes; it is of great concern that a multi-national activist group that has a track record of misleading the public has set itself up as an authority to watch over the shoulder of landowners and to pressure government to make prosecutions.

As an example, the WWF recently made allegations against an Augathella landowner which were much canvassed in the media.  WWF then presented their “evidence” to the State Government who carried out a detailed audit in which no law was found to be broken.  Not only does WWF owe the landowner an apology (and compensation) for wasting his time and defaming him but they should also be required to reimburse the State Government for the wild goose chase that it sent them on.

As part of this new campaign Dr Martin Taylor of WWF released a report called, “Bushland destruction rapidly increasing in Queensland.”

From this report is the following statement:

The government has provided WWF with decision notices for 56 decided applications.  Of these, 17 have been approved under the current government (since Feb 2015) and 39 under the previous government.  Only 31 of these 56 approvals have the area approved to be cleared recorded on the decision notice (Fig 2).  However, the government advises that all approvals to date add up to 112,403 hectares of remnant vegetation approved to be cleared

What,” I am tempted to ask “is the Government doing providing WWF with decision notices for high value agriculture and what privacy or commercial in confidence provisions should apply?

Dr Martin Taylor points out that the Newman Government amendments

 “increased the burden of proof on government in cases of illegal land clearing.”

What he has failed to say in any clear way is that prior to the amendments, legislation had reversed the onus of proof such that landowners had to prove innocence rather than the Government prove guilt.  That reversal of the onus of proof was contrary to all the tenets of our Justice system

WWF has also railed against the self-assessable codes.  In reality there is very little about the “self-assessable” codes that is self-assessable with the maps that must be downloaded being very prescriptive about what can and cannot be cleared.

Environmental Certification Schemes

Surely the above information should be enough evidence that Australian beef producers should have no part in an international sustainability program which WWF designed.  PRA has continually pointed out that this multinational radical activist organisation is not a friend of primary producers or of civil society.

These are two recent articles that also confirm PRA’s position on this matter

Activists can harness State power:

“A further concern is the specific inclusion and endorsement of privately managed certification schemes initiated and run by green activist groups.  Chief among these is the Forest Stewardship Council, which includes as members WWF, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Australian Conservation Foundation and the Wilderness Society.

The Illegal Logging Prohibition Act and its regulations represent a classic example of unelected activists enlisting the coercive powers of the state to pursue their agenda.”

Fishing fury over net-free zones:

 “Ms Collard said [Queensland Seafood Industry Association] QSIA had worked co-operatively with WWF on a number of issues and believed they were making progress. “  This latest action is treacherous.”

QSIA executive officer, Eric Perez said WWF had “no bottom line” when it came to acceptable fishing in Australian waters.

“This must be a warning to all primary producers in Queensland: do not trust WWF,” he said.

“Whether you are a fisherman, a cattle producer, a cane farmer or any other primary producer, WWF will try to control what you do and use every trick in the book to restrict your activities.”

Strategic Cropping Land

An incredible situation that 1 year & 2 months after an Act was repealed that CSG companies are able to apply to strike out Strategic Cropping Land (SCL) status under the provisions of the old Act

At the end of last week a full page ad appeared in many regional newspapers that listed a large number of land titles across the Surat & Bowen Basins.

In June 2014 the Newman government passed the Regional Interests Planning (RPI) Act & repealed the old Bligh ALP government SCL Act.  The RPI Act gave better protections for landowners but this was rather meaningless when very generous “transitional arrangements” were allowed whereby if CSG companies placed an application before June 2014 that sometime down the future they will enact a SCL “validation” process as occurred with QGC applications in the Wandoan/Taroom area last year.

The SCL Act was flawed as the CSG company can apply to strike out SCL status on one of 7 different criteria and any pre-existing authority such as a Petroleum Lease or Environmental authority meant any SCL identified under the SCL Act 2011 would already be approved under old legislation guidelines.  Changes announced in the below link by the LNP state government last year were not made retrospective.

  • The Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 (the Act) was assented to on 28 March 2014 but most of the operation of the Act commenced on 13 June 2014.
  • The Act generally requires resource activities to obtain a Regional Interests Development Approval if a resource activity is proposed to be undertaken in a priority agricultural area or a strategic cropping area.  All of the potential strategic cropping land in the trigger maps has become Strategic Cropping Land under the Act.
  • Section 24 of the Act says that if a resource activity may be lawfully carried out on the land before the commencement of that section, then the resource activity is an exempt resource activity.  That means, for example, the resource activity may be carried out under a pre-existing authority such as a Petroleum Lease or an Environmental Authority. 

It would appear Arrow Energy are applying to have the SCL status of the land removed which was approved under a pre-existing authority which is why it is being assessed under the Strategic Cropping Land Act 2011 and not the current RPI Act.  It would be wise to check that approvals for Arrow development on SCL were actually granted under environmental authorities for development prior to 13 June 2014.

Arrow, for all but 2 titles, is making application based on “cropping history.”  This criteria is a poor way to assess what is actually high quality soil suitable for cropping.  It could be for good management practices that an area of land was returned to a rotation of pasture in the time set for this assessment.  Despite assurances last year that extended SCL would also apply to grazing and farming land, there are significant loopholes in the legislation. 

If landholders believe their lots have been incorrectly identified by Arrow Energy as non-strategic cropping land, they can make a written submission to the DNRM Chief Executive in Mackay on or before 22 October 2015.  Further information can be found on the DNRM WEBSITE with reference number SCLVA2014/000145.  Properties that are affected are in Western Cropping Strategic cropping land zones in the Isaac Regional, Central Highlands Regional Livingstone Shire, Rockhampton, Western Downs Regional local government areas.

For further information email or phone DNRM 07 49996962.  Arrow’s application can also be inspected until 22 October at Toowoomba DNRM, Wandoan Council Library or the Dalby Arrow Community Information Centre.

‘Railway & Railroaded’, John Burnett conference presentation

Frustratingly consecutive governments have either refused to listen or failed to take any action to the case presented this group of landowners.  They weren’t even trying to stop the rail routes taking coal from the Galilee Basin to the port on the coast rather they had a factual common sense proposal based on local knowledge that could have seen a more holistic approach taken with benefits for all industries in a large area of Qld.

It appears that in times of a mining boom all gets swept aside to facilitate new projects, especially local landowners even if their message could save millions in maintenance in the future by proposing a different route from one that for a long distance crosses diagonally across a significant flood plain.

John Burnett spoke at the 2015 Property Rights Australia conference in Emerald, August 22.


Dale Stiller

Dale Stiller, Chairman

Property Rights Australia

Phone:  07 49213430
Fax:       07 49213870

Members' Newsletter 24th September 2015