Landholders will have more time to “panic” clear trees on their properties in Queensland after MPs voted to delay re-implementing restrictions, the state’s deputy premier says.
The delay was able to occur after independent MP Rob Pyne voted against the minority government for the first time since his resignation from Labor last week.
He instead supported an opposition motion to have a parliamentary committee report back to the House on the government’s reinstatement of its vegetation management laws by June 30 – more than two months after the government’s proposed April 15 deadline.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said the delay could have severe environmental consequences.
“One of the reasons why the time frame was selected by the government was to reduce the potential for panic clearing of native vegetation in Queensland,” Ms Trad said.
“So I’m very concerned now there may in fact be more time for this sort of conduct to happen.”
Opposition frontbencher Tim Nicholls said farmers would be offended by Ms Trad’s “dreadful statement”.
“People, property owners, farmers, graziers have nothing but the highest respect for their land – they earn their living from it,” Mr Nicholls said.
“To accuse them of suddenly going out and panic clearing I think is a disgraceful slur on the reputation of all those people who work so hard in such difficult circumstances and I think she’ll regret making that statement.”
Mr Nicholls said the opposition moved to delay the legislation’s passage because the government tried to rush it through late on the last parliamentary sitting day for a month.
Industry and economic groups had already come out against the “draconian” laws, which would hurt the state’s property market and make life harder for people earning a living off the land.
But the reintroduction of the tree clearing restrictions, which were relaxed by the former Newman Government, has been welcomed by green groups.
“An area nearly twice the size of the ACT has been cleared since 2012, adding to climate pollution and decimating the state’s environment,” Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Andrew Picone said in a statement.
The Newman government’s changes allowed the clearing of vegetation for high-value agriculture projects and introduced a series of self-assessable codes for landholders to manage clearing in certain areas.