Laws to limit land clearing in Queensland have been reintroduced to state parliament, without a controversial clause forcing farmers to prove they hadn't been cutting down trees.
The Labor government introduced the land-clearing laws last year, however they lapsed when the election was called.
Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham reintroduced the laws to parliament on Thursday, saying they would bring an end to widespread land clearing permitted under the Newman government.
Native vegetation had more than doubled since Labor came to power in 2015, he said, and these laws would enforce a more balanced approach.
“Within three years clearing rates of remnant native vegetation in Queensland increased from 59,800 hectares in 2012-13 to 138,000 hectares 2015-16,” Dr Lynham told parliament.
Of particular concern to farmers was the reverse “onus of proof” clause in the original bill, which would have forced landholders to prove they hadn’t been illegally clearing.
Dr Lynham said that had been removed from the revised legislation following consultation with stakeholders.
Under the changes, existing approvals for tree-clearing on high value regrowth land will be honoured, but no new approvals will be granted.
AgForce president Grant Maudsley said the proposed legislation was a backward step that would prove more restrictive on farming practices by adding layers of red tape.
“If it’s harder for my family to grow food for myself, it’s harder to grow food for the people of Queensland,” he said.
“If you want to grow extra food in this state you need to set aside agricultural land for that development, this actually puts a cap that stops agricultural development going forward.”
It also means drought-affected farmers would find it harder to feed their livestock, he added.
Conservationists have welcomed the laws, saying they will bolster habitats for native wildlife.
The bill will now go through the committee process, with a report due back in parliament by April 23.