Managing the winds of change

Lavery, Hugh, Kirkpatrick, Tom, & Gane, Michelle A. (2009) Managing the winds of change. Queensland Environmental Practice Reporter, 15(68), pp. 27-36.


Environmental impacts caused during Australia's comparatively recent settlement by Europeans are evident. Governments (both Commonwealth and States) have been largely responsible for requiring landholders – through leasehold development conditions and taxation concessions – to conduct clearing that is now perceived as damage. Most governments are now demanding resource protection. There is a measure of bewilderment (if not resentment) among landholders because of this change. The more populous States, where most overall damage has been done (i.e. Victoria and New South Wales), provide most support for attempts to stop development in other regions where there has been less damage. Queensland, i.e. the north-eastern quarter of the continent, has been relatively slow to develop. It also holds the largest and most diverse natural environments. Tree clearing is an unavoidable element of land development, whether to access and enhance native grasses for livestock or to allow for urban developments (with exotic tree plantings). The consequences in terms of regulations are particularly complex because of the dynamic nature of vegetation. The regulatory terms used in current legislation – such as 'Endangered' and 'Of concern' – depend on legally-defined, static baselines. Regrowth and fire damage are two obvious causes of change. A less obvious aspect is succession, where ecosystems change naturally over long timeframes. In the recent past, the Queensland Government encouraged extensive tree-clearing e.g. through the State Brigalow Development Scheme (mostly 1962 to 1975) which resulted in the removal of some 97% of the wide-ranging mature forests of Acacia harpophylla. At the same time, this government controls National Parks and other reservations (occupying some 4% of the State's 1.7 million km2 area) and also holds major World Heritage Areas (such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest) promulgated under Commonwealth legislation. This is a highly prescriptive approach, where the community is directed on the one hand to develop (largely through lease conditions) and on the other to avoid development (largely by unusable reserves). Another approach to development and conservation is still possible in Queensland. For this to occur, however, a more workable and equitable solution than has been employed to date is needed, especially for the remote lands of this State. This must involve resident landholders, who have the capacity (through local knowledge, infrastructure and daily presence) to undertake most costeffectively sustainable land-use management (with suitable attention to ecosystems requiring special conservation effort), that is, provided they have the necessary direction, encouragement and incentive to do so.

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ID Code: 32939
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: No
Additional URLs:
Keywords: sustainable land use management, tree clearing, private landowners landholders, Queensland
ISSN: 1323-7349
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES (050000) > ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND MANAGEMENT (050200) > Environmental Management (050205)
Divisions: Past > Institutes > Institute for Sustainable Resources
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2009 Queensland Environmental Law Association
Deposited On: 25 Jun 2010 00:04
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2011 15:13

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