Ministers run as owners question environmental 'land grab'
HUGE areas of privately owned Queensland farming and residential property became effectively worthless, at the click of an Environment Department computer mouse about a month ago.
And then this week, apparently after another mouse click, it all became worth owning again.
Farmers raised the alarm after they learned that the department had effectively stolen their land, by telling them they were no longer able to farm on big areas of their properties.
Ministers for the environment (Leeanne Enoch), natural resources (Anthony Lynham) and agriculture (Mark Furner) had not responded yesterday to Gympie Times questions lodged with them more than 24 hours earlier.
But unofficially, one farmer said he had been told by a department official a computer program had not performed as expected.
"Rubbish,” said LNP Shadow Agriculture Minister Tony Perrett.
The restrictions were so ludicrous, he said, mowing the lawn could be illegal in some affected backyards.
"Cultivated crops, areas grazed for generations...
"The government has turned the maps into a weapon against property owners.
"There are severe restrictions and massive fines if you do anything on a marked area,” he said.
The so-called "trigger maps” declared protected areas on which farmers could no longer farm, or even fulfil weed control or fencing obligations.
Then, towards the end of May, an additional buffer area was added, taking up most of some properties, parts of some towns and even sports fields and rail lines.
In one recent case, Gympie region farmers Bill and Sue Blakeney lost a $3.2 million sale of their Coondoo cattle property, after their buyer saw the map.
"I question what 'freehold' means if the government can just take it over without agreement or even without the owner's knowledge,” Goomboorian farmer Peter Buchanan said.
"I left trees on my place and I slash in between them. Am I allowed to?” Col Mellor said.
"They can't tell us what plant is supposed to be protected on our place,” Leanne Long said. "They say you can self-assess but you have to have a contract botanist and you have to pay their fee, ten or fifteen thousand dollars.
"Who has the power to do this and then undo it, just like that,” she said.