PAINTBALL PROTECTION?: The map showing protected plant areas in the Bundaberg region.
PAINTBALL PROTECTION?: The map showing protected plant areas in the Bundaberg region. Contributed

Bundy farmers count the cost as govt mapping misses point

A PROMINENT Bundaberg lawyer has slammed the Queensland Government's new vegetation and protected species mapping.

The flora and fauna trigger map is designed to identify high-risk areas where endangered, vulnerable or near threatened plants are present or are likely to be present.

New mapping includes the Bargara Beach Caravan Park, the Bargara Bowls Club and the CQUniversity Campus.

Grazier and lawyer Tom Marland said it was common for government mapping to change without notice.

"You usually only find out after someone has been charged for breaching a map they didn't know existed,” Mr Marland said.

"This is just a further continuation of the State Government wanting to govern the regions from Brisbane without having any practical knowledge of what's actually on the ground.

"Here's a few examples of the lunacy - there is a trigger map over Suncorp stadium, there is one over Greensill's packing sheds, another over a packing shed on Bargara road, half of Branyan is covered.

"I don't think anyone would criticise a government wanting to protect threatened and vulnerable species but these maps achieve literally nothing as they are so inaccurate and flawed.”

Mr Marland said landholders can pay anywhere between $5000 and $30,000 to have the site removed.

"I had an example recently of a landholder with a cane property that has been cultivated for over 50 years had a trigger map appear,” he said.

"Upon assessment and review, the map was related to a protected species on a neighbouring property 5km away.

"While the Government is placing more unnecessary red tape on farmers and landholders, 400,000 hectares of national park was decimated by bushfire in November last year.

"The Government was quick to blame climate change to hide 20 years of poor management policies and failing vegetation management restrictions.”

Industry body AgForce has also hit out at the government's increased mapping area.

AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said the Government had placed the administrative and financial onus for its poorly-thought-out and unscientific approach onto producers.

"There appears to be no available scientific, ecological or cartographic rationale for how these new maps, which in some cases have increased the protected areas on properties from almost nothing to nearly everything, have been developed,” he said.

"As soon as we found out the new maps had been released, we sought meetings with DES and the Queensland Herbarium to understand the methodology behind the massive change and the impact that would have on producers.

"DES staff couldn't explain the considerable discrepancies in how protected plant areas are mapped, such as why, for example, neighbours with identical agricultural land use have been mapped differently.”

Mr Guerin said producers were being forced to do, as well as pay for, the Government's work.

"Producers are prevented from clearing or thinning on areas which may be home to protected species,” he said.

"It is up to each producer to commission a formal ecological survey of their property, an operation that costs a minimum of $5000 and anywhere up to $30,000 depending on the size and complexity of the protected area, to determine the accuracy and veracity of the Government's map.

"In other words, the Government isn't sure whether anything worth protecting exists in those locations, and there is even a disclaimer that the "Government takes no responsibility for the accuracy of this product”.

"Yet, fines for breaching the regulations are anywhere up to $400,000 for a class 1 offence, so unless producers want to risk this sort of penalty, these surveys are an expensive and unexpected process that must be gone through.”

A response from the Queensland Government was not provided before deadline yesterday.

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