Farmers dig in on clearing bill
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The government is proposing to reinstate vegetation management controls repealed in 2013.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.