Media Releases - 13 October 2023

Queensland government releases long awaited native vegetation report

Land clearing in Queensland.

Yesterday, the Queensland government released the overdue Native Vegetation Scientific Expert Panel report. The report was commissioned by the government in 2021 in response to the record high native vegetation clearing and re-clearing identified in the Queensland 2018-2019 Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) report released on 30 Dec 2021.

The overall recommendations of the report are to:

  1. maintain the existing regulatory framework

  2. implement a suite of educational, financial and motivational measures - i.e. landholder education, extensions officers, incentives, reforming the Land Restoration Fund and implementing a method under the ERF to address clearing of Category X

Wilderness Society Queensland Campaigns Manager, Hannah Schuch said that it’s good to finally see what’s in the report but when hundreds of thousands of hectares are bulldozed each year, it’s clear that the current legal framework is not protecting Queensland’s iconic forests.

“We thank the Queensland government for finally releasing this long awaited report. While we wait for governments to release key reports like this one and get on with acting on their recommendations, threatened species habitat is on the chopping block.

“Since 2018, over one million hectares of Queensland’s forests and bushlands have been impacted by deforestation and land clearing. Bulldozers clearing vast swathes of bush are threatening iconic native species like the koala with extinction, smothering the Great Barrier Reef with chemical run off and contributing to climate change.

“Queensland is a global deforestation hotspot. We need stronger laws, improved incentive schemes and corporate action to protect these forests for future generations.

“We welcome recommendations to reform incentive and stewardship programs and implement programs to promote sustainable land management, however the speed of these initiatives do not match the scale of the deforestation crisis in Queensland.

“We acknowledge the recommendation to ensure adequate funding for enforcement of the Vegetation Management Act but without stronger laws to protect ecologically significant Category X forests and bushlands, enforcement can only achieve so much.

“We need stronger deforestation laws in Queensland to protect important forests and bushlands. The status quo is not good enough when the clearing and deforestation of high conservation value forests and bushlands are continuing to go unchecked due to the Category X loophole in the Vegetation Management Act.

“Lastly, we strongly welcome the recommendation to release regular and up to date data (SLATS). Publicly available, transparent information on the impacts of deforestation and land clearing is crucial to understanding the issue and how governments and corporations can act to protect Queensland’s forests and bushlands.”

Wilderness Society analysis has shown that over the last 5 years of reporting (2016-21) at least 65% of land clearing activity in Queensland was linked to beef. Between 2020 and 2021 alone, 234,007 hectares of land clearing in Queensland was linked to beef - of that 57% was regrowth older than 15 years of age.