created on Thursday, 22 August 1996 at 11:22 AM
Brisbane Region Environment Council
The region faces unprecedented pressures from our activities. A recent report from Dr Carla Catterall, of Griffith University, has detailed the high rates of vegetation clearance in the region and its devastating effect on our biodiversity.
As a result of these and other pressures the South East Queensland region currently has 60% of the endangered or threatened plants in Queensland. This summit bought together state and local governments, environment groups and academics to examine this problem and some of the possible solutions.
Carla's report pointed out the need for urgent action, hence this summit. The Sunshine Coast has the worst record in SEQ, there have been 2000 ha of bushland lost since 1994. SCEC has video footage and research revealing the disastrous extent of clearing on the Sunshine Coast
A mandate for doing something about this must come from the people.
We need to get positive results, SEQROC has left it up to individual LGAs. We can't leave it to the LGAs alone, they can't get an overall policy by themselves.
No conference such as this can be complete without a word from indigenous peoples of the area. I would like to welcome the Chairman of the GubiGubi Land Council Alex Bond. I apologise, to Alex, for the current state of the country.
The input of indigenous people has increased in the last 4 years due to the recognition of Native Title . Our people now have input to EIS and development decisions in the area. Unfortunately there are only 300 adult Kabi Kabi left. We work with the broader community on ecological management from Brisbane north to Noosa. We must get recognition back and regain links with our land. Aboriginals are concerned with land clearing because we like fishing and hunting.
The SEQ area is the fastest growing region in Australia. It should be remembered that Australia only has about 7% of its area in forests and that should not be destroyed. We don't want to hunt in shops, we still want to harvest the land. We need to balance the traditional with the contemporary. All societies do, and we, like everyone else, must confront the past and the future.
I embarked on this study to test if the rhetoric of more environmental awareness was reflected in reality and to try and to show where are we really going .
The SEQ area has a large diversity of unique species and habitats and great natural beauty. The area has suffered major disturbances but it can't be written off and it's not too late. The level of disturbance is intermediate, unlike the Murray Darling Basin
Bushland cover is important in all conservation issues. It is important for biodiversity, land, water and climate.
The first study examined clearance rates between 1820-1989 and the second study tried to see if we are still clearing at the same rate. This study, commissioned by SEQROC, covers the SEQ2001 area and used Landsat imagery and arial photography. The level of resolution was of a regional scale and areas of greater than 10ha were mapped.
The study showed that there are large remnants but these are only a small percentage of the total study area.
Most of the larger remnants were in the high country or on the large sand islands.
Over 64% of the study area is cleared already. Around 1% was cleared in period of 7 years from 1987-1994. The major losses during this recent period are on the coastal zone and lowland valleys.
The flat lowlands are most at risk, land <160m occupies approx 40% of all land in the region.
The lowlands has a distinct flora and flora compared to the uplands. It has migratory birds and also contains common animals that are fast becoming rare koalas, gliders etc. There are little representation of lowlands in parks.
There was more original vegetation below 60m than above prior to settlement. Early on there was more clearing of uplands but recently this has shifted to the lowlands
Most land is freehold land and most clearing is on freehold land.
The study has tried to project extinction dates, when will it disappear? How much will be left in 70yrs? The answer is that below 60m all will be gone, 60-160m almost gone and at >160m there will be very little change. We will have less than 10% of the original cover.
What consequences for biota and land/water quality if this happens ? In other areas clearing has had bad effects and lots of money is needed to fix it. The effects of major roads is devastating, within 2km of major roads all bush disappears.
Curiously, lands of lowest risk have the highest protection while lands at the highest risk have the lowest protection. Major remnants include Cooloola, the koala coast , the "green link" remnant to Flinders Peak and the Sunshine Coast lowlands. All these are under pressure and may disappear.
Clearing is a problem and there is much evidence that bush cover is needed for sustainability.
What should be done ?
1. Acknowledge that there is problem, no denial,
2. Understand the problem better and get more objective research into the problem.
3. Decide to stop the problem.
There are lots of alternative goals and targets for maintaining cover. The activity of individuals detrimental to the public good should be regulated. We need a suite of legislative and administrative reforms to maintain cover. No single action is most important. We need to research a legal definition of vegetation clearance as development. Injurious affect must be amended, in addition to other state planning policies.. We need to revise development application processes with independent review and public comment. We need more local government bylaws to protect our bush.
Representing Hon Brian Littleproud
nature consolation act !
In Queensland around 35% of lands have been cleared and we have some 2.1 million ha in conservation reserves and around 14 million ha in forest reserves. Over 80% Queensland is in freehold land. The state has a permits system for clearing and some, but not all, LGA's have vegetation clearing control laws. The use of Interim Conservation Orders(ICO) is applicable only in spot areas and cannot be used as a general control. The ICO are only a temporary measure. The State government also can use State planning policies(SPP) but at present Department Local Government and Planning(DLGP) has only 3 such policies.
In our legal system Freehold title confers rights and although the DOE doesn't like indiscriminate clearing, if actions are legal and threatened species aren't at risk there is little that can be done except purchase the land. However land in SEQ is expensive, 2 recent acquisitions by the DOE of only 160-170 ha cost $6million.
There has to be a balance between conservation and development. Some developers are changing and they are taking wildlife corridors and waterways into account in their developments.
The State government's legislation should protect the broader community but education is the key because big sticks will fail in the long term.. There should be no erosion of individual rights, compensation for lost land value and landholders deserve some recognition if they conserve. DOE can provide advice on wildlife protection but we also need to enhance community awareness about the benefits of conservation.
The DOE is mapping threatened communities, it has identified 950 regional ecosystems, of which 124 are threatened, with less than 10% of their original range remaining. A further 148 are classed "of concern" with 10-30% of their original range left, the rest are rated as having no concerns. Some of the department's original estimates of clearing are now shown to have been overestimates. The gidgee and western uplands communities are in this category, however brigalow communities are in a very sad state with 21 ecosystems out of 42 in the brigalow belt being considered threatened.
The DOE still collecting data for strategic acquisitions and planning but feels that National Parks and other reserves, 6.14 million ha, represent most communities.
There are no state requirements for impact assessments on housing developments. Environmental impacts assessments(EIA) are triggered by other factors such as location, canals or perhaps for mixed used developments. A local goverment may require EIA for some forms of developments but most subdivisions won't require an EIA. If the local government doesn't have bylaws, little can be done. The practice of pre-emptive clearing before application is unfortunately becoming a norm.
The state has no responsibility generally for monitoring compliance with an environmental management plan. The LGA can make agreements or conditions, but often only regarding headworks. These conditions can be broader, they may require a developer to lodge bonds.
The Nature Conservation Act enables conservation agreements as does the Nature Refuge Act and the Coordinated Conservation Area Act. It has taken the department time to develop procedures to implement these acts. The department has established high standards for such agreements to protect their long term integrity. The fruits of these acts are coming, 2 nature refuges are in place and another 2 are signed. There are an additional 5 in the pipeline covering 20 properties. The department receives 2 requests a week offering land for nature refuges which shows that the community accepts concept. Currently the Minister and a major land holder in western Queensland are negotiating one nature refuge covering in the order of 100,000 ha. The state government has established a Coordinated Conservation Area in the Koala Coast which ensures an overall management plan to manage its conservation values.
Ian Schmidt SEQ 2001 Back To Contents Page
representing Hon Dianne McCauley
The department has important role in vegetation protection, but, it must be done in a cooperative manner. The benefits of cooperative planning are clear. Vegetation clearance crosses jurisdictions and a partnership is fundamental. There are a number of existing planning projects such as SEQ2001, Wide Bay, FNQ, CYPLUS and others.
The state will not impose rigid structures and local governments can take initiatives. Regional planning must at the level of principles to help coordinate agencies. It must not be a fourth tier of government. This government will not create regional planning authorities. Any regional planning arrangements must have agreement by the LGA and they must be approved by Cabinet. Their resources will be decided by state and local goverment at the time of establishment. All current regional planning projects are having their terms of reference reviewed.
The SEQ2001 study is relevant to this summit as it aimed to manage growth and recognised that the natural environment is important to livability. It sets down principles for conserving environment, promoting sustainable development patterns, a more compact urban form, promoting public transport, ensuring jobs and housing are matched. Vegetation clearance is regional issue. Accurate data is needed to maintain and restore biodiversity. The department has a Geographic Information System(GIS) for the mapping of environmental constraint areas. The SEQ 2001 GIS has been developed in partnership with all levels of government. Dr Catterall's report has used this GIS data and in turn will be used in the GIS. The GIS is also used to review local government planning schemes. The results of the SEQ2001 plan must be monitored and performance indicators are being developed to do this. The Regional Open Space System(ROSS) is viewed as being primarily the responsibility of LGAs. The department and LGA's are preparing management plans for the 9 existing ROSS properties. The department is providing funding for remnant surveys in Esk.
Impact Assessment: The draft PEDA bill received over 200 submissions, including a large number about terms of reference for EIA and the role of referral agencies. The revised bill will reflect these concerns and assist in the streamlining of planning. A Ministerial task force has been convened and will report to the Minister. The new draft Bill integrates EIA procedures, and will try to make planning processes simple and easy to understand. The community's right to know will be enshrined.
Local Laws: the old local laws expire in March 1997. The department is drafting a vegetation protection model local law. Some 25 LGA's have VPO and all these laws need to reviewed by March 97 or they will expire. Final development of the model law on VPO is on hold till tree clearing is reviewed in the whole state.
Q: Is the DOE's data available and financially unencumbered? A: WildNet being developed. Its data will be free to community although consultants will be charged. Information is also available from Nature Search.
Q: What is the DOE doing to educate community and is it liaising with Education Department? A: We do liaise with the Education Department and we have an education/public information unit. If the DOE budget permits we aim to have extension officers in regions. Furthermore, the conservation movement, is a vehicle for educational materials. The DOE can and needs to do better. A2: SEQ2001 does do public education but wants more money, it liaises with planning schools. Our NGO sector committee wants educational kits for schools.
Q: Some LGA's are looking at vegetation management, but perceive a lack of State commitment with respect to Conservation SPPs - what happened ? A: Not able to answer, Government still thinking.
Q: There is no planning policy for populations. A: ...... no answer.
Q: What are problems with ROSS? A: Govt has concerns about some perceptions regarding potential acquisitions, trespassing and restriction to farming . We have to deal with these perceptions, we need ROSS. The Government is looking at implementation issues and will work with local government agencies and communities to rework ROSS.
Q: How committed is the government to protection of Noosa crown land conservation areas? A: SEQ2001 is a voluntary and cooperative project not a regional planning authority and decisions are made by state and local agencies., however these areas should be protected.
PANEL: Phil Day: Back To Contents Page
Making planning work for biodiversity conservation
More talk! SCEC congratulated on organising the summit. We have all attended so many seminars etc. The issues are still topical and have not been resolved. Solutions still remain just a wish list, pinning its hopes on voluntary commitment. Very little that a competent planner could not put together in six weeks! Environmental movement hasn't much faith in town plans! It has not been deserved. Town planning and environment movement are two streams which have parallels but not cohesion. Third stream, community planning is slowly coming on board. We need corporate plans that are well conceived with monetary commitment. We need less rivalry between departments. We need more focus on the north, perhaps we should look at subsidising a rail link for Century Zinc. Town planning must be applicable and accepted by the community at large. The PEDA draft is complicated unnecessarily, some technocrats have a vested interest in keeping it complex. Councils should be required to disclose their reasons for approving and not approving developments. They should also disclose their considerations of public submissions. Currently the community has to raise its own funds to challenge decisions in court. We allow lawyers to decide the merit of town plans. These decisions should be retained by the community, as very few appeals contain questions of law. Comprehensive corporate plans need to have more on environmental principles and field systems. An effective system could do all the things in Dr Catteralls report.
If we are serious about retaining native vegetation, we need to abandon our cultural obsession with quarter acre blocks. Detached houses are using all our bushland. We also suffer from the "Cardwell Syndrome" - a delusion that structural unemployment can be solved by an ever increasing economy and inflation
There is a fatal flaw in our planning systems. Every time a rezoning approval appears, revaluation of land occurs, private wealth is being subsidised by the wider community irrespective of need or sustainability. We can complain about the problems including compensation for devaluation, but in reality nothing will change until land is recognised as a finite natural resource, not a tradeable commodity. We wouldn't agree with the privatisation of air and water but we don't distinguish between land and man made products on the land. This doesn't mean nationalising or leaseholding. Land is a community resource and we should pay a charge to the community for use of it If we don't address this issue we are only fiddling on the fringe........
We have to face and understand and solve the problem, the days of confrontation over recognition of environmental problems is over, there is bipartisan recognition of environmental matters. There is spirit of cooperation and we have to act.
1. Value of native bushland
Values include scientific, educational, cultural, recreational, aesthetic, economic, public health and ecosystem health.
2. Impediments to empowerment
3. Multidisciplinary consultative groups
4. Ownership and stewardship
5. Research agenda
Lastly, the public must be involved before rezoning applications are submitted and adults as well as children must be involved and educated.
Values and feelings are essential as well as facts. Why are we concerned, why are we here? The wonder and awe for nature are basic but not measurable. What are the values of the bush? There are extrinsic values such as commercial and protection values including stopping erosion, nutrient and water cycling.
There are also intrinsic values of biodiversity. It comes down to ethics, humans are part of nature. We belong to a history of life 3 billion years old we aren't seperate but part of it and this can't be expressed in dollars.
PANEL: Questions Solutions Back To Contents Page
Q: What incentives are there for landholders to conserve and protect ?
A: The DOE has spent 0.5 million to protect mahogany gliders. The department is currently doing a report on best initiatives nationally.
Q: Our national clearance rates are excessive, done for economic gain. We can't control large corporations in agribusiness and governments won't regulate them ? A: Large corporations can escape tax and controls. We aren't extracting enough revenue from resources including land. We need charges for consumption of land, this can't be avoided or evaded. Current systems are unfair and landholders are being asked to preserve while others can make profits from selling or rezoning. People who conserve must be financially compensated.
Recommended reading "Land: the elusive quest for social justice, tax reform and a sustainable planetary environment"
Q: What can be done about injurious effect ? A: If betterment could be captured it could fund devaluation costs.
Q: Could the federal government have a role in population regulation ? A: no answer
Q: Are cane farmers endangered or are forests ? A:The community decides carrying capacity, reserves and buffers. There should be no compensation if the area has no hope of being cleared for useful purposes.
Q: Does the Government really accept there is a problem, are present policies failing ? A: Yes clearing is a concern, but is the community prepared to pay ? At present there seems to be no enthusiasm to do so.
Comment Phil Day : We must recognise limits to growth, we must do conservation surveys. Councils shouldn't make exceptions to zonings they should stick to your zonings. We must protect natural values, no exceptions. We could embrace steady state economics, bigger isn't better, and preserve quality of life. Mainstream voters are serious about environment.
Q: Is there any protection for land of conservation significance eg SPP A: Government is reviewing SPPs, they are not prohibited but will be reframed.
Q: Can DOE look after small remnants on the coast as well has large lands out west. A: No answer
Q: Does Government really recognise the problem as recent policies have as an aim to reduce regulations including environmental ones ?.Does DOE have any real power ? A: No Answer
Different Perspective's on our Frustrations
What are Councils doing to slow the loss of native vegetation ?
What are the issues in a moral sense? The moral dimension or fundamental values must be addressed. The growth syndrome must recognise that fundamental changes in our value system must happen. One of the initial aims of landcare was to adopt the land ethic. Now many thousands of landcare people have adopted this ethic and turned it into practice. Development is the development of caring communities, wealth is enriching lifestyles. The fundamental causes 50 most important issues come down to one of three things: arrogance with respect to nature; ignorance of ecological processes; and greed.
A Motivations for change could be to consider our obligations to the next generation, We need to recognise our ecological basis not only economic realities but ecological values. Nature might slap us in the face. These are central values...spiritual motivation in a general sense that the earth is a creation and we must live gently on the land. All three motivations are important. Social values are part of sustainable development. It is often put as an either/or economy or environment, but they are not in conflict. Conservation, production and social goals must be balanced. The argument should be about weightings given to these things, not whether one is important and the others aren't
We have examples, such as the WA wheatbelt, of what happens if too much cover is lost . We still have 20% of original cover, in SEQ, retained and we need to recognise how special our area is. The Macleay overlap is special and highly biodiverse.
Values other than economics such as ethical decision making should be central in the process. We should ask whether it's right or proper and "should we" versus "can we" should also be asked. Values and ethics have been changing and moving outwards from the self and family to community and rights of nature.
Wildlife Preservation Society: Pat Comben Back To Contents Page
Policy is for both Government and the community.
People don't realise how much is gone or zoned to be gone.
The key questions to address in policies are:
What do we want South East Queensland to be like in 100 yrs time
What do want to see happen to flora and fauna ?
We have to look at all levels of animals in policy, not just the visible or popular ones.
A commitment is to nature protection is essential
The federal government has a range of techniques and agencies to use such as, treaties and acts and most importantly it has the money.
The State government has the greatest range of options, but also a wide range of obligations across sectors and across the state. The State can acquire and it can encourage more coordination through things such as ROSS, VCA and Refuges. Voluntary codes only apply to goodies, you must legislate against the baddies.
Local governments mostly have little money, though the BCC had as more for land acquisition as the State does for National Parks. They have control over planning and have wide landuse powers. They can raise levies and pass local laws, although we need a uniformity in approaches.
The community has power and people must stand up and say what should be happening. They should congratulate good decisions. Finally the community must demonstrate a willingness to pay.
Current planning has failed and no one level has all the answers. There must be a mixture of both the stick and the carrot. We should embrace long term planning and avoid the tyranny of small incremental decisions eroding the environment. At local elections and state elections we have to convince authorities of the need for vegetation protection. Currently VCA are difficult to do and people need to be able to easily protect their land if they want to. All councils must have a green levy. and we can borrow money for natural infrastructure just as we borrow for other infrastructure. We need to address the issues of wildlife corridors and riparian protection. We need medium term planning arrangements and some progress in strategic planning. We need state planning policies and to look at examples from other places. The Government must be asked to and logs of claims are a good vehicle for this.
Q: Is it possible to give rates relief for conserved land ? A: This issue has to be revisited again, landholders who conserve could also get an exemption from the green levy....
Q: What happened to the Federal money for biodiversity projects ?: A: Its gone
Q: Are farmers endangered? A: Farmers aren't endangered, clearing or urban expansion are the problem. We need to balance personal benefit and community benefit. The situation is near critical but controls shouldn't affect property holders practicing sustainable production.
Q: There has been over 2000 ha since 1994 for preemptively cleared to avoid assessment , do we need to have a 10yr moratorium if they do. ? A: We need to expand scopes of EIA outside of industry and manufacturing. We need to restructure how EIS are done, who pays and how, it needs to be an independent report.
Ross Cope Environment Management Branch
Its not easy for local government to protect vegetation. Most bushland is in private ownership.
BCC has reduced the vegetation loss from 3 football fields a day to 1 per day.
BCC relies on a suite of measures to protect bushland such as acquisition, VPO, town planning and community partnerships.
Currently they have a $30/yr bushland levy and it could go higher. Since 1990 around 35 properties have been acquired comprising some 1300 ha. We have 6 major bushland areas with community advisory committees. Acquisition secures land for the long term and has a high level of protection. There is however some uncertainty about valuation of such land.
The BCC VPO covers over 5000 properties totalling some 17,000 ha. There is widespread support for VPO with surveys indicating around 70-90% support.
BCC has a nomination model not a blanket model. Additionally for VPO to be effective it must be supported by changes to the town plan, particularly in the future urban and industry zones.
The BCC has vegetation protection principles in the new strategic plan. They have also addressed the issue in their Local Area Outline Plans in fast developing areas. They have modified zone intents to take into account environmental constraints. Finally they have local planning policies and development control plans to address the issues in some areas.
The ICC has an area of 1778 sq km and a population of 135,000. This population is expected to rise to 250,00 by 2011. The Council area contains parts of the Brisbane and Bremer rivers and parts of the Little Liverpool and D'Aguilar ranges. The Council also has a large part of the "Greenbank Link" remnant.
The Council prepared a conservation strategy in 1993, this identified a wide range of forest types and habitat in the area. The ICC contains some 900 plant species and over 400 species of animals. It contains 22 rare and threatened plans and 14 rare and threatened animals.
The ICC has 6 conservation parks, parts of the Brisbane Forest Park and the Main Range National Park. The future of flora and fauna depends not just on the Council but on the actions of private landholders. The ICC controls 5.3% of remnant bushlands in SEQ. Around 23.4% of the city has bushland cover and 90% of this cover is on freehold land. 40% of the bushland cover is on land less than 60m in elevation.
Around 3.9% of all Bushland was lost between 1987 and 1994, this makes the annual clearing rate 0.13%pa. The lowlands are being cleared at 0.24%pa. If current clearing rates are not slowed all bushland at less than 60m will be gone by 2044.
The city is split into 9 discrete Conservation Planning Regions(CPR) based on regional vegetation complexes. For each CPR we have:
Management of bushland areas is difficult as 90% is on freehold land. We must rely on a public education program and we have two officers responsible for that. We need to identify management strategies palatable to rural landholders. The lands in the conservation estate also require management for recovery plans, visitor impacts, weed and fire control. We need to support landholders to manage properties in sympathy with conservation principles.
The council has in place other strategies to manage and protect bushlands.
We have proposed and environmental contribution fund to support landholders to manage bushlands, acquire critical conservation areas as a last resort and manage/enhance lands in the conservation estate.
We have a vegetation management local law which includes the power to require reinstatement of vegetation damaged in contravention of the local law. This law is applicable to vegetation across a range of classes, categories, areas and vegetation layers.
We have and open space and recreation development plan which gives a strategic overview of open space in the city. It highlights the area's natural features without jeopardising the environmental integrity of the region.
It's not all doom and gloom, not all black. There is not a lot of clearing on the range and probably a plus on the vegetation side with some good regrowth on escarpments and slopes.
Most of the hinterland clearing was some time ago and there has been regrowth along creeks. The greatest threats are between highway and the coast. The Council is doing a strategic plan review with the Olsen vegetation study being used as guide. There is "Significan't Vegetation Policy" under consideration.
All development applications get environmental assessment. There is a 10% parks contribution and the Council can apply non-clearance conditions. Developable areas exclude drainlines and flood lines in addition to the 10% parks contribution. To protect riparian zones and wetlands the council has an Esplanade policy. These buffers are, along rivers in a 30m wide strip. There are buffers to main roads and buffers between landuses The council can also require vegetation retention and replanting. It can also specify drainage easements and non-clearance conditions on lots. Rural creeks can be protected with a 10m buffer. Council has automatic protection for big trees on slopes 20deg or greater. It has an environment levy of $15 of which $8 goes to acquisition. Council is involved in ROSS scheme and environmental and catchment committees such as the Mary River, Pumicestone Passage and Maroochy River. Council is involved with local bush rehabilitation groups. It's network of 40 honorary rangers are its eyes and ears in the shire. The council also has landscaping guidelines for developments.
Q: What's the difference between open space and natural ecosystems ? A: Open space encompasses a wide range of uses from bushland, parkland, recreation facilities and sports activities.
Q: What's different between good and bad councils ? A: The community sets the agendas as it votes in councillors. A2: Good councillors make good decisions.
Q: Do you think that cuts to Nature Search and DOE will help development assessment processes ? A: Nature search is important. Its loss is very bad, the government to needs to rethink some of these cuts.
Q: How come roadways in Caloundra get cleared of wildflowers and wallum ? A: Main Roads did it, not us, or the race course did it. There is a problem in that policy doesn't get implemented on the ground due to a lack of will to change work practices.
Q: How good is representativeness and connection of reserves? Do they follow biotic or legal boundaries ? A: The major reserves serve a range of environmental values, particularly if it is a viable habitat, but they are not fully representative.
Back To Contents Page