Having conceded that the decision to apply the least rigorous environmental assessment to the proposed clearing of 2,000 ha of native vegetation on Kingvale Station on the Cape York Peninsula was not made lawfully the Morrison government snuck through a new assessment for massive forest destruction in a Great Barrier Reef catchment, just days out from Christmas.
‘This proves yet again the problem with Australia’s federal environment laws,’ say conservation groups today.
After being ordered by the Federal Court to determine a new assessment approach for the clearing of over 2,000 hectares of native forest at Kingvale Station on Cape York Peninsula, the Minister for the Environment, Melissa Price, yesterday resolved that a decision can be made on preliminary documentation only.
Lowest assessment method
‘Preliminary documentation is one of the lowest forms of assessment methods and hardly adequate for the scale of the project,’ said Christine Carlisle, president of the Environment Council of Central Queensland, the group that launched the successful legal challenge to the Minister’s original assessment method.
‘This is an example of why Australia needs to strengthen our environment laws, and appoint an independent Environmental Protection Agency to supervise compliance with these laws.
‘The current laws are weak and a proposal to bulldoze native vegetation in this sensitive area should have been declared unacceptable in the very first instance.
Survival of reef in question
‘Kingvale Station is in a Great Barrier Reef catchment, and sediment following the bulldozing will run into the Reef waters at Princess Charlotte Bay. In order to protect the Great Barrier Reef, at the very least the minister should require a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) of the whole proposal,’ she said.
‘The Reef is an international icon that can be seen from space, and is the largest living organism on Earth. The very survival of the Reef is threatened by climate change, and to be adding insult to injury with sediment runoff is spelling doom for this wonderful ecosystem. We should not allow the demise of the Reef on our watch,’ said Ms Carlisle
‘The public now has 10 days to put in submissions on the revised assessment approach for 2,000 ha of Reef catchment deforestation. Having it released for comment a few days out from Christmas when everyone is enjoying time with their family, suggests the Morrison Government are avoiding scrutiny.’
This news was uncovered the same day that The Queensland Government released the Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) report, which reveals that in the last two years 314,000 hectares of native forest and bushland has been bulldozed in Great Barrier Reef catchments.
‘We are in the midst of crisis levels of deforestation in Great Barrier Reef catchments, at a time when the federal government has promised the world it is doing everything it can to protect the Reef. Water quality is identified as the second biggest threat to the Reef, after climate change,’ said Wilderness Society, Queensland Campaign Manager Gemma Plesman
‘Last time this project went out for public comment there were over 6,000 public submissions, clearly demonstrating the community concern.’