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    Minister for Natural Resources and Mines
    The Honourable Andrew Cripps

    Minister Orders Review of Vegetation Clearing Enforcement Processes

    Minister for Natural Resources and Mines
    The Honourable Andrew Cripps

    Thursday, April 19, 2012

    Minister Orders Review of Vegetation Clearing Enforcement Processes

    The Queensland Government is reviewing current investigation and enforcement processes for alleged illegal vegetation clearing, Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps announced today.

    Mr Cripps said the Government would immediately undertake a thorough review of the way that the penalty provisions of the Vegetation Management Act 1999 (VMA) have been applied to alleged breaches of the Act.

    “The Acting Director-General of the Department of Natural Resources and Mines has issued instructions to:

    • Place current investigations of individuals and businesses for alleged breaches of the VMA on hold for a short period until completion of a review of penalty processes;

    • Withdraw an existing appeal seeking an increase in penalty, launched under the former Department of Environment and Resource Management; and

    • Provide the Minister for Natural Resources and Mines with a review of penalties imposed since the commencement of the Act based on a detailed review of past case files," Mr Cripps said.

    “These actions will enable a comprehensive review of the application of the provisions of the VMA to alleged breaches to be carried out over the next six to eight weeks.

    “The review will initially be undertaken independently of the Department by Crown Law, to determine whether or not a wider external review is required."

    Mr Cripps said the current government has for many years, expressed serious concerns about the perceived focus of the previous government on an overly aggressive policy of compliance and prosecution in relation to the VMA.

    "Approximately 100 cases of unlawful clearing have been prosecuted in Queensland since the commencement of the VMA in 1999," he said.

    "To date, convictions were obtained for the unlawful clearing of in excess of 40,000 hectares of land, resulting in approximately $1.5 million in fines.

    “The Newman Government has made it clear we are determined to work cooperatively with landholders and industry.

    “This is a sensible approach to achieving balanced and sustainable natural resource management outcomes; rather than focusing on heavy-handed compliance and prosecution.

    “I want to make it clear that this action does not signal changes to the Vegetation Management Act 1999.

    “Rather, it is about delivering practical outcomes and certainty for landholders and industry in this area of government policy.”

    Mr Cripps said the number of prosecutions and the level of fines handed out for illegal vegetation clearing in Queensland had risen significantly in recent years.

    “Between the year 2000 and July 2009, there were approximately 77 cases, involving 25,000 hectares of illegally cleared vegetation, resulting in approximately $218,000 in fines," he said.

    “Since July 2009, however, 23 prosecutions have been finalised for offences totalling over 15,000 hectares of illegally cleared vegetation, resulting in approximately $1,282,000 in fines.

    “This is concerning because there has not been an amendment to the VMA to provide for more extensive penalties for such offences.

    “This noticeable change occurred largely at the same time that the former government merged the then Department of Natural Resources with the Environmental Protection Agency, to create the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM).

    “I am extremely concerned about the apparent inconsistencies in how the provisions of VMA have been applied since the formation of DERM.”

    Mr Cripps said it is vital landholders have the right information about vegetation clearing to ensure a balance between environmental protection and allowing landholders to manage their properties responsibly.

    Landholders considering clearing vegetation should first check the Department of Natural Resources and Mines’ online vegetation maps at www.nrm.qld.gov.au, which also features information about the types of clearing allowable.

    Free maps are available which will indicate whether a particular property is captured by the vegetation clearing laws.

    Landholders who have questions about clearing on their property can phone 13 74 68 for further advice.

    Media contact: 3404 8012