Final vegetation hearing draws hundreds
THURSDAY brought a powerful conclusion to three days of vegetation management hearings as hundreds of producers, graziers and small business owners filled the Charleville Town Hall in a last stand against the proposed changes.
Charleville was the last stop for the State Development, Natural Resources and Agricultural Industries Development Committee in their tour of five regional centres, as they received public opinion on the Vegetation Management Amendment Bill.
More than 400 people from across the state packed the town hall.
Sixteen local graziers, businessman and scientists were selected to give short speeches on the impact of the amendments.
The speakers gave evidence against the functionality of the 'one-size fits all' laws and questioned the committee on inconsistencies in the legislation.
Changes to the self-assessable codes formed the basis of many speakers' arguments.
"I recommend the committee obtain the self-assessable codes for managing the thickening of mulga,” Charleville producer Cameron Tickell said.
"The mulga lands is a typical example of an area that suffers extensive thickening and responds well to thinning practices - thinning in this region is an essential part to Mulga lands management.
"If this thickening is allowed to occur, you will see a here a lack of biodiversity that will result.
Mr Tickell explained how the new code prevented management of the thickening of Mulga, as the quick regeneration and close proximity of the older protected trees made it impossible to cull the younger.
"(The new laws) are like me saying to you, you can go from Brisbane to Ipswich everyday but, when you read the fine print, you've got to ride through Roma on a push-bike to get there,” Charleville producer Scott Sargood added.
"The media say, okay, they can still thin and do the fodder, but it's when you read the fine print, it's not achievable, just like you riding a push-bike from Roma to Ipswich everyday.”
The speakers also emphasised the predicted run on effects from the changes to the vegetation management laws.
"The Mulga lands are the breeding ground. Because the rainfall and soil aren't as good, we have been blessed with the Mulga tree to overcome these dry spells,” Mr Sargood said.
"People in the southeast, who don't have enough land to breed, they fatten, so we breed them here - this is where the numbers are coming from, the Mulga lands.
"The way I see it, if stocking rates are reduced because we can't continue on that code that we have, all those people will be effected, as there will be less supply.
"I assume because population is increasing, demand will be the same. Less supply, same demand, higher prices.”
"Agriculture is being asked to grow a $30 billion industry to a $100 billion industry over the next 12 years,” Mitchell producer Robyn Bryant added.
"This cannot be achieved with laws that stifle development and ultimately diminish growth.”
Mitchell grazier Rob Moore and Charleville and Western Areas Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health's Pat Fraser spoke of the personal toll the laws would have on the outback community.
"Every second advert on TV is about Beyondblue, Lifeline, Black Dog. These vegetation acts are sinister, sleazy and just plain bullying,” Mr Moore said.
"My concern is for the human species out here. 240 plus on the dole here in Charleville, most of them in their prime years. Nothing but boredom and drugs.
"What same government would put the likes of me and my contractor and his staff in the same position?”
"As a community member we rely on the landowners, we rely on the income that comes into the community, it also makes this community work,” Ms Fraser said.
"If we lost the landowners our community would die. Isn't the Labor Government all about being fair? Why pick on a community that is already struggling.”
A rally occurred before the hearing, with the crowd holding placards and banners as the CEO of AgForce, LNP members and local graziers gave short, impassioned speeches.
The fate of the mulga-lands and agriculture in the five centres now rests on the parliamentary decision, due to be confirmed later this month.