The Palaszczuk Government is being heavy handed with Queensland farmers over the application of its Vegetation Management Laws and often seeking land as compensation for alleged tree clearing breaches, says a leading legal firm.
Creevey Russell Lawyers Principal Dan Creevey said the firm had found cases where the Department of Natural Resources had taken an uncompromising approach to individuals found in breach of the legislation, with prosecutions and restoration notices imposed when there were opportunities to negotiate alternative outcomes.
The Vegetation Management Act 1999 (Qld) has been the subject of much debate, following amendments made by the State Government in 2018,” Mr Creevey said.
“When restoration notices are issued for alleged tree clearing offences, they can have serious and long-lasting impact on a farmer’s rights. There needs to be greater assistance given to farmers to help them comply with their obligations.
“In recent times, our office has observed the department taking a strict approach against those who have breached the Act by clearing land they were not authorised to do so. In circumstances where it may be possible to negotiate an alternative outcome, the department is taking a strict approach in terms of what it will and will not discuss, often seeking a significantly larger amount of land by way of compensation in instances of a land exchange.”
Mr Creevey said farmers were strongly advised to obtain legal advice on land clearing matters.
“The consequences of not understanding your obligations can have significant financial impacts, as well as significant impacts on your ability to use your property,” he said.
Mr Creevey said the constant changes to government legislation and policy makes it increasingly difficult for farmers to apply their trade and also be aware of the changes.
“Whilst ignorance of the law is not an excuse, the constant changes to the relevant legislation, regulations, and policy makes it increasingly difficult for farmers to know what they are and are not entitled to do with their properties,” he said.
“Queensland families need farmers. Whether or not their product is cattle, crops, or something else, farmers want to get the maximum benefit from the land they own. Government should be aware that farmers work very long hours. They often do not have the time to sit at a computer and research the constant changes to the legislation to identify what they can and cannot do on their property.”