WESTERN Australian farmers have welcomed State Environment Minister Bill Marmion’s undertaking to amend the Environmental Protection Act to address what they say are numerous shortcomings in the clearing of native vegetation.
Earlier this week at a forum on land clearing in Esperance, Mr Marmion acknowledged native vegetation clearing laws could be improved and gave an undertaking to pursue amendments to clearing legislation if the government is re-elected.
“I acknowledge that management of native vegetation continues to be a key issue for the agricultural sector," he said.
“The main message I want to get across to farmers is that clearing is not banned. You need a permit to clear native vegetation but there are also exemptions where permits aren’t required.
“Historic clearing of native vegetation in WA has resulted in salinity and erosion and the legislation is there to protect the land, our native species and ecological processes.
“Farmers can clear for low-impact, routine land management practices, including maintenance of existing cleared areas; and they can clear up to one hectare a year for construction of buildings, clearing for fence lines and tracks, firewood and farm materials, and isolated trees, where these are not in an environmentally sensitive area.
“Clearing to prevent and control fires under the Bush Fires Act and pastoral lease grazing under the Land Administration Act is also exempt.
“Should the government be elected for another term, I intend to pursue consultation with key stakeholders on proposed legislative amendments as a matter of priority.”
The government is considering proposals to amend the Environmental Protection Act to streamline administrative processes, improve regulatory effectiveness, and address identified shortcomings in the legislation in line with the government’s approvals reform agenda.
Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) president Rob Gillam said existing native vegetation clearing laws continued to oppress and vilify farmers for attempting to increase the productivity of their land.
”These oppressive laws have led to many farmers facing financial ruin and criminal prosecution for clearing regrowth on their own private property,” he said.
“This is not in the best interests of farmers, agriculture, or the environment.
“Since their introduction by the Labor Government in 2004, the PGA has been the lone voice in calling for the existing native vegetation clearing laws to be reviewed, and for the Environmental Protection Act to be amended to allow for the clearing of regrowth, and an end to criminal penalties for minor infringements.
“We applaud Minister Marmion’s commitment that he will undertake a review of the State’s native vegetation laws, and that he will allow farmers to finally have a chance to have their concerns addressed.”