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Communication failure brings 'extreme stress' for farmers

STRESSFUL: Somerset farmers Carli McConnel and her son Don right) of Mt Brisbane Droughtmaster Stud and land owner Kyle Sanguinetti (centre) believe that councils need to allow for sustainable tree clearing on their properties.
STRESSFUL: Somerset farmers Carli McConnel and her son Don right) of Mt Brisbane Droughtmaster Stud and land owner Kyle Sanguinetti (centre) believe that councils need to allow for sustainable tree clearing on their properties. David Nielsen

A COMMUNICATION breakdown and incorrect koala mapping are to blame for the vegetation management plan which has seen farmers and graziers unable to clear land, Somerset Council says.

The regional council is reviewing its vegetation management framework introduced earlier this year after a negative reaction from farmers.

Grazier Carli McConnel said the framework was bureaucracy gone mad and had put her and her family under "extreme stress".

"I'm probably the most fired up about it," she said.

"We've done all our grazing best management.

"Our family has owned the property for more than 100 years, so who knows the land better?

"The level of anger among farmers here is palpable."

 

Mrs McConnel said the koala mapping used to decide which areas farmers couldn't clear was wrong and Somerset mayor Graeme Lehmann agreed.

"The koala overlay maps we used... to be honest (they're) just not right. Taking my property as an example, the place where the maps says is primary koala habitat doesn't have a gumtree on it ," he said.

"Too much weight was put on (the koala mapping)."

 

Mayor Graeme Lehmann doesn't think council
Mayor Graeme Lehmann doesn't think council "got it right”. Rob Williams

"I don't think we've got it right," he said.

'We didn't think it was going to hit as hard as it did (but) graziers are happy we're looking at the guidelines.

"I think 99% of our farmers know if they look after the environment it will look after them. Our farmers are not raping their properties."

Mrs McConnel said she felt the plan was poorly advertised.

Council director of planning and development Brad Sully, however, said they held community meetings, distributed pamphlets, had the original vegetation management plan open to the public for more than 30 days and had council officers on hand to answer any questions.

"The document was substantially advertised," he said.

"Council will not be sitting on its hands. As soon as we get the okay from the Department of Local Government and Planning we will make the (new) plan open for inspection (by the community) for at least 30 business days."

AgForce, the unifying organisation for Queensland's beef, sheep and grain producers, will be the voice of the Somerset farming community until the revised framework is approved to be made public.

Mr Sully said the review would take 6-12 months and there was no way to speed up the process.

In the meantime the council has waived application fees so farmers can apply to clear land on a case-by-case basis without cost.

"We have no reason to hinder any land owner. If farmers are diligent, the application process can be complete in a couple of weeks," Mr Sully said.

"We have tried to do the right thing."

Topics:  farmers qt country somerset regional council


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