Qld government slammed over deforestation

·2-min read

Conservation groups have criticised the Queensland government after it was revealed almost 690,000 hectares of land was cleared during a 12-month period.

The government said the 2018-19 Statewide Landcover and Trees Study released on Thursday showed less than one per cent of state land was cleared in endangered areas.

Resources Minister Scott Stewart said Australia-first, higher resolution technology helped identify land clearing more accurately in the latest report.

But conservation groups said it indicated land clearing had been significantly under reported "for years" and the state was likely to be releasing more emissions from deforestation than reported.

The 2018-19 report revealed 680,688 ha had been cleared compared to 356,000 ha in 2016-17 and 392,000 ha in 2017-18.

WWF-Australia said the findings indicate Queensland is a "carbon bomb" set to destroy the national 2050 climate change net zero target and the state's own plan to reduce emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

"More forest and woodland is destroyed in Queensland than in any other state in Australia," WWF-Australia's Stuart Blanch said.

"Eastern Australia was identified as a global deforestation hotspot by WWF-International last January, and is the only developed nation on that list.

"This cannot go on."

WWF-Australia has urged the Queensland government to embrace reforestation, saying it would benefit the ailing koala population, reduce water pollution to the Great Barrier Reef, significantly cut climate pollution and create a multi-billion-dollar carbon farming sector.

The Queensland Conservation Council said the latest findings were "heartbreaking".

"This data reveals that deforestation in Queensland is still out of control and is a serious risk to vulnerable wildlife and turbo-charging carbon release and climate change," council director Dave Copeman said.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said on Thursday a group of scientific experts would be assembled in early 2022 to better understand the study results and find ways to help avoid clearing or whether other measures were needed.

Conservations groups said the state government could start by closing land-clearing legal loopholes.

The Palaszczuk government passed a number of vegetation management law reforms in 2018 to curb soaring deforestation rates.

However, critics claim significant land clearing has continued because there were no measures to force landowners to amend maps that designated 'Category X' areas that were exempt from regulation.

The 2018-19 report revealed Category X areas accounted for about 70 per cent of the state's land clearing activity or 477,390 ha.

WWF-Australia said almost one-third of the land cleared in 2018-19 was in catchments flowing to the Great Barrier Reef, with 85 per cent in Category X areas.

They also urged the state government to work with beef farmers to find a tree-clearing solution with the report showing the industry accounted for 93 per cent of deforestation.

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