Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Betrayal of Trust - Part 2

Continuing on from Betrayal of Trust – Part 1 

Vegetation Management Act
Instead of concentrating on education and using scientific research as a guidance as what to do; from around the year of 2001 the then Premier of QLD, Mr. Peter Beattie, suppressed the research and created the expectation in the near future of closing down any further land development; therefore strangling many farming families’ opportunity for future income. The result was panic clearing.

Image - print by William Strang, Farmer kneeling before justice.

The Beattie Government continued to fuel these expectations for two entire years until amendments made to the Vegetation Management Act came into effect in 2003, where the balance of all other remnant ecosystems was banned from clearing; all broad scale clearing stopped.

To this day I have a sense of sadness over this entire farce. The opportunity was lost. Landholders at the time would’ve been responsive to this research and moved forward in a positive way to the benefit of both farming and the environment. Currently, landholders have an even greater reason to mistrust Government with amendments to Act in 2003, additional amendments in 2005 and the moratorium on regrowth in April 2009 and the subsequent legislation on regrowth in October 2009.

To offer some evidence to the statement above that the QLD Premier and Government suppressed research, the following quote is from Michael Thompson, a senior Rural Press reporter who writes in the article, Lost battle of Queensland farming,

“Dr Burrows and a team of Primary Industries and Natural Resources scientists and economists were asked to prepare a paper for submission to the Productivity Commission. What that team found was distinctly unpalatable to the Queensland Government, which then decided to withdraw its participation in the PC inquiry, and took Dr Burrows’ research into Cabinet to prevent its public release.”

Regional Vegetation Management Plans

In the early stage when there was the possibility that tree clearing would, in the future, be regulated, a process of consultation was undertaken. Regional committees where assembled of various stakeholders to write management plans called, Regional Vegetation Management Plans (RVMP’s), of future regulation of vegetation management at the catchment and property level. Many people considerable time and resources making an honest effort completing this task using local knowledge and generational experience. The Regional Vegetation Management Plans were completed only to have the Government immediately completely disregard them or use small parts of them out of context with the original intent.

The disregard of the role the rural community played in development of the RVMP’s and also to the lack of recognition to landowner conservationists that retained considerable remnant vegetation only to be aggressively stood over by compliance officers after the introduction of the Vegetation Laws in 1999 and the Amendments that followed. “Compliance Officer” was a new role created in the QDNR after the Vegetation Management Act 1999 came into effect. It saw the change of agency staff working with farmers in an atmosphere of goodwill and mutual respect to that of policing, prosecution and distrust. Previous important conservation measures such as soil conservation work was abandoned and these personnel moved into vegetation management work

Impacts on Landowners

In January 2003, State councillor for Agforce Gus McGown wrote a newspaper article called, Long-term policy for resource management must engage landholders; in which he warned  

“Media stunts, though, does not make successful policy.

As an exercise in winning the hearts and minds of primary producers, it fails.

Whether it is encouraging voluntary conservation measures or water use efficiency, it is the carrot rather than the big stick approach that gets the thumbs up.

The cheapest way to get things done does not involve enforcement or heavy-handed administration.

If we are to achieve a sustainable future for rural Queensland, cooperation from landholders will be necessary.

Decisions based on access to Commonwealth funding and alienating primary producers might produce backslapping over coffee in the State Government's Executive Building.

However, it makes the development of a long-term policy for integrated natural resource management increasingly difficult.”  

Later in 2003, sadly all too common became stories such as this one in September 2003, Disappointment and anger at guilty plea. After reading this article there is no doubt as to some of the reasons for landowners feeling vilified, victimised and alienated from Government and agency staff.

“Last week the Surat grazier was forced to plead guilty to a case he could have won, with the Crown's case built around information he volunteered while allegedly being secretly tape-recorded.

But due to the "horrendous" financial cost of fighting the comparably unlimited legal resources of the Department of Natural Resources and Mines, Mr White was forced to succumb to the contentious charge.

Now Mr White, 60, is filled with disappointment and anger.

Even in cutting his losses, he still faces $15,000 in his own legal fees, plus $4800 in Crown legal costs as awarded by Magistrate Dennis Butel, who fined Mr White $600 but ordered that no conviction be recorded.

If Mr White had contested the charge he was facing legal fees of about $30,000 if he had won, or up to $50,000 if he had lost, a heartbreaking prospect on the back of a devastating drought.”

Continue to read

No comments:

Post a Comment

Welcome to a place that has a focus (but not exclusively) on regional and rural Australia open for anyone living anywhere to read, learn and interact. Please feel free to make a comment.

You can use some HTML codes such as, a for active; b for bold; i for italics

Active code - substitute a for @
<@ href="web address">linked words

[Click Here] for a link to another site where there is a very good simple explanation.