|Rainforest bulldozed along Sippy Creek, Sunshine Coast - Pic Ted Fensom|
The clearing of rainforest and other native vegetation on the Sunshine Coast is accelerating as the Queensland Government pushes ahead with a massive $1 billion program to expand and upgrade the Bruce Highway. At the same time, landholders on the coast are making the most of the absence of meaningful state land-clearing laws, with the rampant destruction of native forest being documented on at least nine properties.
What is happening on the Sunshine Coast is indicative of what is happening across the state as the recently re-elected Labor government stalls on its pledge to restrict land-clearing.
|Forest converted to mulch piles, Steve Irwin Way, Sunshine Coas - Pic Ted Fensom|
Of particular concern on the Sunshine Coast is the fact that the government has sliced into the Palmview Conservation Park, Mooloolah River National Park, Beerwah State Forest and other reserves to make way for its roadworks. National parks are supposed to be sacrosanct and there is little point in protecting land as reserves if they can be carved up at the stroke of a pen.
Environmentalist activist Ted Fensom has documented the extent and nature of the clearing across a large swathe of the southern Sunshine Coast. He says critical habitat for koalas and numerous plant and animal species have been devastated without meaningful environmental assessment studies being conducted, and with little consideration for far-reaching ecological consequences and the loss of biodiversity.
|Old growth trees felled at Palmwoods, Sunshine Coast - Pic Ted Fensom|
According to Fensom, the highway works are particularly devastating. “The area affected by the huge clearing for works associated with the Bruce Highway is beyond comprehension and stretches many kilometres north to south,” he says. “Koala habitat and precious rainforest has been turned into giant mulch piles. These pockets of biodiversity are disappearing every week around the Sunshine Coast.”
According to the federal Department of Environment and Energy, the roadworks are affecting populations of koala, listed as a threatened species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, as well as subtropical lowland rainforest, listed as a threatened ecological community. However, the department approved the development with conditions.
|Rainforest logging and clearing at Sippy Creek, Sunshine Coast. Circled sign says: "Environmental Protection Zone"|
Fenson says the rate of tree-clearing elsewhere around the Sunshine Coast is “going beserk”. Native vegetation has recently been - or is in the process of being - bulldozed or logged at four sites around Palmwoods; two properties near Woombye; and two areas around Caloundra, including a koala habitat corridor at Little Mountain; and a 60-hectare holding in Yandina. Areas where further clearing is planned include Tanawah North, Coolum West, Nambour Heights, Buderim, Bli Bli, Mooloolah and Beerwah East.
|Activist Ted Fensom|
The state Liberal National Party Government in 2012 gutted the Beattie Labor Government's 2004 laws controlling land-clearing. In 2016, the minority Palaszczuk Labor Government failed in its bid to again tighten up land-clearing laws when crossbenchers joined the LNP – ever the slave to the old school Bjelke-Petersen Nationals - to defeat the move. An estimated 300,000 hectares of Queensland bushland are being bulldozed annually as a consequence.
|Clearing for a Bruce Highway on ramp, Sippy Downs, Sunshine Coast|
Labor was returned to government in the November 2017 election, this time with a majority.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk pledged to reintroduce the tree-clearing restrictions but no time-frame was set, and the state's new Environment Minister, Leeanne Enoch, has had little to say about the matter. Her office declined to respond to requests for comment. The Queensland Department of Main Roads and Transport also declined to comment.
|Land-clearing at Woombye, Sunshine Coast - Pic Ted Fensom|
It is a matter of considerable regret that the Greens and some in the environmental movement pay little attention to the land-clearing scandal. Their focus in Queensland has for some time centred on the proposed Adani coal mine at the expense of just about everything else. One leading figure in the birding community dismissed concerns about land-clearing as “spin” designed to divert attention from Adani.
|On Twitter: Paul Sullivan is BirdLife Australia CEO|
Adani is a very important issue, to be sure, but it is a proposal and one that may well not fly as its proponents struggle to secure finance. Uncontrolled land-clearing is happening right now. Ted Fensom's photographs on this post, all taken recently across the southern Sunshine Coast, speak for themselves. They reflect what is happening across Queensland.
|Forest destruction at Tanawah, Sunshine Coast - Pic Ted Fensom|
|Bulldozer at work at Palmwoods, Sunshine Coast - Pic Ted Fensom|