Farmers in Queensland have expressed their anger at the delay of new legislation designed to protect the best farmland from development by mining communities and urban development.
The Strategic Cropping Land Law is part of a commitment by the government Department for Environment and Natural Resources Management to protect key food bowls central to the development and maintenance of the local environment and economy. The plan covers areas in central and southern Queensland. The proposed legislation protects the best land for farming use ensuring it cannot be used for a variety of purposes including mining, urban development and permanent high impact projects. The land, identified using a range of criteria including its use, the quality of the soil, location and potential ensure the area cannot be alienated by development, which limits its worth to farmers.
AgForce, the lobbying groups representing the rights of rural farming communities in Queensland has welcomed the legislation but this week their frustration in delays over its implementation and development have come to the fore.
Environment Minister Kate Jones announced she would step down to defend her seat of Ashgrove in Brisbane at the next state election where she faces a challenge from the Liberal National Party's new leader. Two ministers will be taking over the portfolio on a shared basis.
AgForce argue it is the third minister they have had to deal with on talks and CEO Robert Walker says the delay is frustrating.
"AgForce has already seen a slowing in some policy delivery timeframes and as we slowly approach a state election the future of food security in Queensland simply cannot afford any further stalling of process or delivery on promised timeframes.
"The Department of Environment and Natural Resource Management has already been without a Director General for more than a month, worsening the difficulties between the department and its ministers.
"Good land management policies that balance environmental conservation with safe and sustainable food and fibre production must be paramount, and AgForce will closely monitor both ministers to ensure they make agriculture a priority in their portfolios."
It is planned the policy will be implemented later this year. The Queensland Resources Council acknowledges the policy is a "work in progress". AgForce is concerned that finer details have not been confirmed and that the delay will see some of the land that should be protected being earmarked for development while the policy is up in the air. They claim mining projects will be forced through to take advantage of the delay. They are also concerned that coal seam gas exploration and extraction is not included in the list of activities the best land is protected from. Critics argue there is no scientific proof of the economic impact of CSG.
The government says they will use retrospective powers to ensure mining projects at an early stage of environmental assessment will not be allowed to go through before the policy is implemented.
Top Image Credit: © Joe Gough