The Turnbull Government is failing to stop the mass deforestation of 36,600 hectares of old growth forest of permits granted under Newman LNP Government-era approvals, severely undermining its $500 million reef resilience package, the Wilderness Society says.
Earlier this month conservation groups revealed the federal Environment Department has indicated it is preparing to wave through a 2000-hectare 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.
‘Bulldozing 36,600 hectares is the equivalent of wiping out an area the size of 22,000 football fields or 130 Sydney CBDs,’ said Wilderness Society Nature Campaigner Jessica Panegyres.
‘This clearing severely undermines the federal government’s much-vaunted $500 million “reef rescue package”, which has earmarked huge amounts of money to improve reef water quality. Deforestation in reef catchments is bad for water quality, as the Department of Environment explained in Senate Estimates this week.
‘While it is now legally near impossible for the Queensland Government to cancel these permits, the Turnbull government has powers under national environmental laws to halt the clearing, particularly given the big threat to the reef.
‘The responsible thing is to reject proposals for bulldozing old-growth forest in reef catchments. But there’s a huge risk that the federal government will wave them through.
‘Just four properties account for more than 90 per cent of this deforestation, including 31,000 hectares at Olive Vale Station on Cape York that drains into the spectacular Princess Charlotte Bay. The federal Environment Department has not even referred this proposed destruction for assessment.
‘The Turnbull government’s failure to protect Australia’s greatest natural treasure and our endangered wildlife is a national disgrace. Its reef rescue plan is a Band-Aid solution compared with actually stopping the damage in the first place. It won’t even assess the largest bulldozing proposal in reef catchments. The Turnbull government needs to stand up to special interests and stop these out-of-control deforestation plans immediately.
‘Just this week it was revealed in a Senate Estimate committee that the Federal Environment Department had quietly approved the deforestation of 1365 hectares at Meadowbank Station south of Cairns earlier this year, seemingly without consideration of the Great Barrier Reef.
Already 2000 hectares of the proposed 31,000ha has been bulldozed at Olive Vale Station, which was formerly owned by Liberal MP Warren Entsch, a staunch advocate of mass deforestation.
Other major deforestation proposals are for 3300ha at Wombinoo Station south of Cairns and 1900ha at Kingvale Station on Cape York.
Four major reef catchment deforestation proposals
Olive Vale Station, Cape York 31,000 hectares (2000ha cleared already)
Wombinoo Station, south of Cairns, 3300ha (560ha cleared already)
Kingvale Station, Cape York, 1900ha
Meadowbank Station, south of Cairns, 1400ha (federal approval February)