Landholders' rights stripped away with clearing decision
LANDHOLDERS in Southeast Queensland could be potentially exposed to fines of more than half a million dollars for managing their vegetation.
This could be a reality after a decision by the Queensland Court of Appeal which AgForce CEO Michael Guerin called 'governance gone mad.'
Land earmarked Category X is exempt under State Government vegetation management legislation, but certain councils require landholders to secure their approval before they clear trees, even if just removing a few trees for fence posts.
Mr Guerin said any assertion that the local requirement was in place to protect wildlife was false.
He said this was a grab for cash and a powerplay by local councils who wanted to control areas of land they considered to be ineffectively controlled by the State.
"What we have here is a gross contradiction between areas of land the State Government says are exempt under Queensland's Vegetation Management Act (VMA), but now could end up costing some landholders their livelihood," Mr Guerin said.
"Fines of up to $600,000 are beyond most of us."
Landholders could face a fine that might be worth more than the value of the land itself.
"Imagine removing trees growing in your own backyard because they are damaging your pipes or foundations, and then being told years later that you weren't allowed to do it, and worse, that you now have to pay a massive fine," he said.
The expectation of most homeowners is that if they own the land, they won't be penalised for planting a few trees and then deciding later they want to remove them.
Mr Guerin said farmers weren't 'mass clearing land in football field sized blocks,' but rather managing thickening vegetation on their properties to restore the land.
"Management of the land and control of the regrowth is what the vegetation needs to be healthy and regenerate. Locking up land and preventing active management causes vegetation to thicken rapidly, often choking healthy ecosystems," he said.
"Thinning 'feral landscapes' allows for effective weed control, minimises the risk of pest animals, and reduces overgrown vegetation that can become a severe fire risk."
The AgForce CEO said the decision by the court of appeal further stifled landholders and the land they're trying to manage.
"Councils that impose these requirements offer no compensation for landholders, who want to effectively manage their land -they simply strip away any rights they have."