Landholders need flexibility to clear

LANDHOLDERS should be given greater flexibility to clear land to make firebreaks as they see fit, says Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto.

The Katter’s Australian Party MP said he was concerned existing provisions in State Government legislation did not go far enough in giving landholders adequate flexibility to construct proper firebreaks which could potentially save their properties.

Currently, those who have freehold land, Indigenous land and leasehold land for agriculture and grazing purposes can clear a “fire management line” of a maximum width up to 10m. Clearing to establish or maintain a necessary firebreak to protect infrastructure other than fences, roads and tracks is also permitted to a maximum width of 20m or 1.5 times the height of the tallest adjacent tree, whichever is the greater.

If clearing within regulated vegetation for this purpose is greater than the essential management limitations, or covered by another exemption under the regulation, a development permit is required.

While those restrictions have been in place since before Labor passed their Vegetation Management and Other Legislation Amendment Bill earlier this year, Mr Dametto said the situation was untenable in light of recent events.

“We’ve had a number of devastating bushfires across central Queensland over the last week and my heart goes out to all those residents who have lost their homes or had their properties destroyed,” he said.

“Emergency services and landowners have done an outstanding job in being able to contain fires where they can. However, I have received feedback from those on the ground who say the restrictions placed on landholders clearing remnant vegetation since the new vegetation management laws were introduced only exacerbated the bushfires.

“The least the State Government could do is give these landholders more flexibility to construct firebreaks suitable for their properties without getting bogged down in red and green tape through permits or needing to conform to some pre-determined bureaucratic restriction.”

Katter’s Australian Party State leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter currently has the Vegetation Management (Clearing for Relevant Purposes) Amendment Bill before parliament, which aims to address gaps within the existing legislative framework that constrain the ability of primary producers to clear land for legitimate purposes and enable access to a reasonable appeals process.

“At the end of the day, landholders are our best conservationists,” Mr Dametto said.

“They know their property back to front and the last thing they would want to do is destroy it. I think it’s time the State Government applied some common sense to this issue.”

Nick Dametto MP