Graziers battling to keep leases
AT least a dozen cattle producing families in the Gympie region stand to lose their livelihood if the government’s plan to convert state forest into national park continues to go ahead.
Kilkivan cattleman and Gympie Regional Deputy Mayor Tony Perrett said stock grazing on state land would be forbidden when current pastoral leases and permits expired under the Department of Environment and Resource Management’s plan to gazette the land as national park.
Mr Perrett challenged the Government’s decision not to renew his pastoral lease in 2006 and won, based on the fact his beef operation would be rendered unworkable if he lost the right to run cattle on leasehold land. His action was a test case followed by many cattle producers with Land Act leases over timber reserves however, many of them had given up the fight over the years, Mr Perrett added.
“The State Government has an agenda to lock up country for no real identified purpose,” he said.
“It appears they are willing to wipe-out agricultural productivity under the guise of protecting biodiversity values. But so far there has been no science to back their decision-making.
“As graziers, we are responsible land managers and are prepared to work with the state to protect whatever is identified as environmentally significant. When there is no science behind the decision, it is very hard not to believe there is a different agenda behind it.”
A joint statement from the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) and the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) claimed no grazing lease was being terminated prematurely.
A spokesman said the Government was seeking to achieve an arrangement that was fair for the grazing industry while a number of phase-out options for pastoral leases were being looked at.
“We are doing this in close consultation with key stakeholders, to avoid the disruptive forest conflicts that occur in other Australian states,” the spokesman said.
“The State Government is in the process of planning for the Western Hardwoods and Cypress region’s long term future.”
Lawyer David Kempton, who acted for Mr Perrett in 2006, said the move to turn 1.2 million hectares of Queensland’s state forest into national park was in response to a promise made by the former Beattie Government to the Greens party. He said the Labor Government made a preference deal with the greens to create another 20 million hectares of national park.
“There are some real horror stories coming out of this — some of the areas have no conservation value whatsoever,” Mr Kempton said.
“The idea that grazing is inconsistent with management of a forest is just nonsense. We had discussions with National Parks and it was agreed the best way to manage forests was through a joint agreement between graziers and national parks.
Under current lease agreements, graziers pay rent to the State Government to use the land as well as local government rates and also provide free land management. AgForce CEO Robert Walker said primary producers, like any business owner, required security of land tenure to make long-term management and investment decisions. He said the government’s offer to extend leases to allow graziers to get their business affairs in order, was a token gesture that merely delayed the inevitable consequence of the decision.