Farm­ers dig in on clear­ing bill

Tablelands Advertiser - - LIFESTYLE -

THERE are fears the Table­lands’ rep­u­ta­tion as the fruit bowl of North­ern Aus­tralia is in jeop­ardy as farm­ers rally against the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment’s pro­posed veg­e­ta­tion man­age­ment leg­is­la­tion.

Ma­reeba District Fruit and Veg­etable Grow­ers Association pres­i­dent Joe Moro is urg­ing grow­ers and in­dus­try stake­hold­ers to at­tend a public hear­ing in Cairns on Fri­day April 13.

It is the fi­nal in a se­ries of hear­ings be­ing held in regional Queens­land as part of the Gov­ern­ment’s con­sul­ta­tion over the pro­posed new laws which, the agri­cul­tural sec­tor fears, will make it harder to make a liv­ing.

Mr Moro said rein­tro­duc­ing the leg­is­la­tion would come at the ex­pense of grow­ers, in­clud­ing Table­lands hor­ti­cul­tural farm­ers who made up nearly half of the to­tal num­ber of land clear­ing ap­provals for high value agri­cul­ture (up to Fe­bru­ary 5, 2018).

“The sta­tis­tics show that grow­ers in the Ma­reeba and Table­lands lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas want to ex­pand their busi­nesses to grow more food,” he said.

“But the leg­is­la­tion as it stands will limit any op­por­tu­nity to clear land to ex­pand ex­ist­ing or­chards to re­main vi­able or in­tro­duce new lines.

“It could po­ten­tially see them bogged down in bu­reau­cracy for months on end to carry out rou­tine veg­e­ta­tion man­age­ment.”

The gov­ern­ment is propos­ing to re­in­state veg­e­ta­tion man­age­ment con­trols re­pealed in 2013.

Agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries fear the pro­posed laws will, among other things, re­move clear­ing pro­vi­sions for high-value agri­cul­ture and high-value ir­ri­gated agri­cul­ture, pro­tect high value re­growth veg­e­ta­tion with­out con­sid­er­a­tion of the im­pact on land val­ues and not ad­e­quately pro­tect ex­ist­ing prime agri­cul­tural land.

Mr Moro said grow­ers wanted fair and work­able laws that would help them grow more food and cre­ate more jobs, while at the same time look af­ter the en­vi­ron­ment.

He said agri­cul­ture was worth more than $552 mil­lion to the Tableland econ­omy (Table­lands Agri­cul­tural Pro­file, 2015), with tree crops in­clud­ing ba­nanas, av­o­ca­dos and man­goes ranked among the top per­form­ers. “This leg­is­la­tion will stop growth in our re­gion in it’s tracks,” he aid.

“This de­bate has been go­ing on for a num­ber of years, leav­ing grow­ers with lit­tle con­fi­dence to de­velop long-term plans to grow their busi­nesses.

“We call on the Queens­land Par­lia­ment to re­ject this pol­icy and work with the agri­cul­tural bodies who rep­re­sent grow­ers most af­fected by these pro­posed changes, to de­velop a fair, equitable and long-last­ing so­lu­tion.”

The hear­ing will be held at the Pull­man Reef Ho­tel Casino, 35-41 Wharf Street, Cairns.

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