THE Pastoralists and Graziers Association has attacked a $6000 penalty imposed on a landowner accused of failing to notify the soil conservation commissioner of his intent to clear re-growth land, as being as ridiculous as the regulations used to achieve it.
PGA president Barry Court said the case against Badgingarra landowners and PGA members, John Nominees, further highlighted serious anomalies in the WA policy position on land clearing. It also focused new attention on the Gallop government's reluctance to address the issue of compensation for affected landowners.
"This was a no win for the soil conservation commissioner or the environmental lobby," Mr Court said.
"It was another example of how governments are trampling private property rights and stifling private enterprise in the name of 'public good' conservation."
The PGA said the landowner had been found guilty of failing to tell the government that he wanted to proceed with a 1994 permit to convert re-growth coastal scrub, worth about $50/ha, to a productive land asset worth $500/ha with an annual earning capacity for the state of perhaps $300/ha.
His options, other to take the action that he did, included:
pLeaving the land in its unproductive state and accepting its diminished value and the liabilities for its protection and upkeep, or
pFormally applying to develop the land under a process that would have incurred substantial cost, with virtually no chance of approval.
Had adequate compensation been available to the landowner, he may not have needed to clear the land.
PGA said the case was made more laughable by the fact that the Agriculture Department, home of the soil conservation commissioner, had used the newly cleared land to propagate some of its most valuable new plant species because there was little other "new" land available.
Mr Court welcomed the Federal Government's new focus on private property rights and compensation at the COAG meeting next month.
"We are still hoping the Gallop Government can follow the lead of Queensland premier Peter Beattie in matching federal moves to compensate landowners," he said.