The Turnbull Government’s planned approval for the destruction of almost two thousand hectares of native forest in a key Great Barrier Reef catchment will severely undercut the $500 million reef resilience package announced in the Federal Budget, The Wilderness Society and Australian Conservation Foundation says.
The Federal Environment Department has indicated in a draft decision that it will allow a massive swathe of tree clearing at the Kingvale Station on Cape York, despite identifying that it could cause harm to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage site and endangered species.
The Wilderness Society’s Queensland Campaign Manager, Gemma Plesman, said bulldozing this forest could accelerate runoff of sedimentation and nutrients into the Great Barrier Reef’s waters. Sedimentation and nutrient runoff harms the reef by promoting algae growth and reducing light for coral and seagrass.
“Allowing almost 2000 hectares of native forest to be bulldozed in a catchment that drains into the Great Barrier Reef is incredibly risky. And even the proponents concede there is a range of endangered species on the land they want to clear,” Ms Plesman said.
“Over the past four years Queensland has cleared one million hectares of native vegetation because the former Newman Government axed important environment protections. This bulldozing plan is a hangover from this disastrous period and must be rejected by the Federal Government.
“Deforestation kills our precious wildlife, bulldozes our forests, trashes our rivers, pollutes the Great Barrier Reef and produces a heap of carbon emissions.”
Australian Conservation Foundation policy analyst, James Trezise, said it was astounding that the Turnbull Government was investing hundreds of millions of dollars to improve the Great Barrier Reef’s water quality but at the same time preparing to approve activity that could make conditions worse.
“It makes no sense for the Turnbull Government to invest millions in repairing the Great Barrier Reef but also wave through more of the destruction causing the damage,” Mr Trezise said.
“If formally approved an area six times the size of Sydney’s CBD would be bulldozed. It would trash the home of endangered creatures and could push more pollution into the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
“Beyond these immediate threats, the Environment Department’s proposed approval would also set a dangerous precedent by deeming tree clearing on flatland poses no risk of creating runoff. If this approach was applied across all the Great Barrier Reef’s catchments it would be an unmitigated disaster for water quality and wildlife.
“This proposal again shows our national environment laws are woefully inadequate and not properly protecting nature. We need new national laws that actually protects nature and a national Environmental Protection Authority that can independently review development proposals.”