In August 2016, the Queensland Government attempted to implement a number of legislative changes that would turn back reforms made by the Campbell Newman government over vegetation management. It was somewhat disingenuously called the Reinstatement Bill. While it certainly did set out to reinstate some of the areas once protected by the Vegetation Management Act it went a lot further and covered areas of the Sustainable Planning Act, Water Act and the Environmental Offsets Act as well as attempting to set some unpalatable legal distinctions around onus of proof and retrospectivity.
At any rate, it is now all water under the bridge. While it was a close thing it was rejected by the parliament but relied on the vote of one, Billy Gordon, a former ALP member of parliament with some grudges to burn. We may never know what the Reinstatement Bill would have meant to Queensland agriculture but, it would seem, that all is now well. Or is it?
Does this mean that farmers have nothing to fear regarding their rights to re-clear regrowth vegetation on their properties? No, not at all!
You can bet money that the Palaszczuk government will be working on having another go at this legislation, perhaps as a policy platform for the next election. The unfortunate truth for the farming community it that public support for this type of legislation is very strong regardless of the underlying facts relating to land clearing in Queensland. Lobby groups such as the ACF and WWF have run very strong campaigns in support of restraining what they see as rampant land clearing. Distinctions around clearing of remnant vegetation versus regrowth vegetation are meaningless to the voting public. While these distinctions mean a great deal to the farming community they mean nothing to urban residents who see statistics such as ‘number of trees killed’ or ‘football fields cleared per day’ as the only truths. Habitat quality or loss of productivity arguments are meaningless in this debate. There is an element of farmer bashing in supporter logic but more than anything is the consideration that in supporting this sort of legislation the ordinary city based citizen can have their say in protecting the environment.
So, farmers be warned, there will be a new push to legislate not too far in the future. Key buzz words and phrases will be familiar: rampant land clearing, soil erosion, reef protection, habitat loss. Don’t get complacent!
But what about now? Is a landholder’s capacity to manage their land and vegetation now secure?
The number one question that would be asked is: Do you have a PMAV? Because if you don’t, regardless of whether you are on leasehold or freehold and the vegetation in question is marked white on an RE map, it is possible that your regrowth could be remapped as remnant if the department believes it meets the critical 50/70 rule. In which case, it would then be incumbent on the landholder to prove the mapping is wrong.
To avoid all that it is as simple as going to the DNRM website and downloading the form, fill it out and send it in. If you have issues, contact your nearest office and talk to the vegetation management officer. They will be more than happy to help. https://www.dnrm.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/111095/pmav-application-form.pdf
There are a few options on the PMAV form. If you want to contest areas of the mapping you may need specialist advice and surveying but, for most people, locking in the current mapping (Box 2 in Option 1) will be the best option. You can always submit another PMAV application to correct mapping if it represents a management issue later.
The main point is, submitting a lock-it-in PMAV isn’t hard and doesn’t require specialist skills. The current PMAV application fee is $419.30 and is the cheapest insurance policy a landholder can have.