PASTORAL LAND POLICY
The pastoral industry is vital to the economy of Queensland. To be sustainable, the pastoral industry must be both economically and environmentally sound. Governments, rural and urban communities must work together to ensure the long-term viability of this industry. A feeling of mutual trust and understanding is needed if these three broad groups are to work together effectively Society as a whole must accept responsibility for establishing policies which allow graziers to achieve sustainability.
Recent surveys of rural people indicate that feelings of isolation and insecurity are common amongst landholders. The findings indicate that lessees question the security of their tenure; are concerned about reported proposals to amend various legislation; and feel they are being blamed for the economic and the environmental rural crises.
A PARTNERSHIP: THE LESSEE AND GOVERNMENT
It is current Government policy to encourage sustainable land use and land management practices on all lands, regardless of tenure. Acting in the long-term public interest, Government must address issues such as the maintenance of water pressures in the Great Artesian Basin; conservation of fauna and flora; prevention of land and water degradation; and the control or eradication of vermin and weeds.
Government however is committed to the policy that lessees are responsible for the management of their holdings. Lessees enjoy exclusive occupation of the land for the term of their leases. They control the day to day operations of their pastoral leases and make all the stock, business and land management decisions for those leases. The role of the Department of Lands is to support lessees in the management of their leases.
There is generally no intention by Government to enforce stocking rates or to demand compliance with land management plans. Lessees are generally well aware of their responsibilities in their use of Crown land, and they are encouraged to seek expert technical advice on land and animal management from departments and agencies such as Lands, Primary Industries, and CSIRO, as well as landcare groups and industry associations.
RURAL LAND TENURES
Approximately 17% of Queensland is either freehold or is in the process of becoming freehold while some 70% is leased by Government to companies or individuals. The remaining 13% is mainly taken up by reserves, roads and a small amount of uncommitted Crown land. Some 8,060 leases are currently used for grazing purposes.
The leasehold system has facilitated settlement and development at minimal cost, while preserving the opportunity for future closer settlement and retaining the flexibility for future land use options.
There are three main types of lease in the grazing districts of the Queensland:
The main form of term grazing lease is the Pastoral Holding (PH), with the conditions and length of tenure largely set by statute.
Perpetual leases offer tenure unlimited in time. The main form is the Grazing Homestead Perpetual Lease (GHPL). Public companies or corporations are prohibited from holding GHPLs. A person cannot hold two or more GHPLs totaling more than two living areas.
The freeholding lease is an interim tenure which applies to land being converted to freehold. Leasehold land which may be approved for freeholding is mainly located in the more closely settled areas of the State. The Government is committed to a largely leasehold system in arid or isolated regions, or where the risk of land degradation is high.
APPLICATIONS TO FREEHOLD
Each application for freeholding is considered on the basis of several criteria including occurrence of commercial timber, presence of outstanding natural features and the risk of degradation. If conversion is to occur, a freeholding lease is granted. This entitles the lessee to occupy the land while making annual purchase payments. When the land is converted, the State may:
Reserve the rights to minerals, gravel for road construction and timber.
Reserve part of the land for public purposes
Impose restrictions or limitations on the transfer of the land.
Freehold is a tenure unlimited by time. Freehold land may be owned by individuals or companies. Freehold owners do not pay rent to the State. They are not subject to conditions of occupation but must still comply with planning controls of local government, as well as a range of other local, State and federal regulatory requirements.
All freehold land (as with leasehold land) may be subject to resumption, with suitable compensation, to meet unforeseen public needs.
CROWN LAND MANAGEMENT REFORM IN QUEENSLAND
In 1992, the Government published a White Paper titled "Crown Land Management Reform in Queensland". This White Paper outlined the principles for proposed new Crown lands legislation. The purpose of rewriting the legislation is to simplify it, to reduce the number of tenures and to incorporate the principles of resource sustainability and land planning into the Land Act.
Native Title legislation Under the Commonwealth and State Native Title Acts, native title may still exist on Crown land, some leases (but excluding pastoral, agricultural, commercial or residential leases), certain reserves and unused roads. Native title may still exist on land (including leasehold land) held by Crown agencies or local governments.
NB The Wik decision has subsequently granted native title over crown leaseholds.
LAND MANAGEMENT PLANS
A land management plan is a planning tool for the guidance of the landholder for making operational decisions on the property. It generally consists of a map or maps showing all natural features and property infrastructure and is accompanied by a report of proposed improvements and management practices. Together, the map and the report form the land component of the comprehensive property management planning process, which also considers stock/crop and financial components. Ideally, these plans should be periodically reviewed to consider any alterations that may be needed in response to changes in markets, seasonal conditions, personal goals or other factors.
A land management plan is the landholder's record of his or her intentions for the property as well as providing a means for transferring knowledge from one person to another. The landholder is responsible for producing the plan and may seek technical advice from the Department of Primary Industries. The Department of Lands generally does not intend to require compliance with a land management plan other than in a limited number of cases where land degradation is particularly severe.
Amendments to the Land Act in 1991 increased the maximum penalties to $24,000 for an individual, and $48,000 for a corporation, for clearing leasehold land without a permit. A tree management plan may be required to be lodged with any application for broadhectare clearing.
A tree management plan is a component of the land management plan and can be produced from it. It may also be compiled separately in those cases where a land management plan does not exist. It shows a property's major vegetation types, stands of commercial timber, areas proposed for clearing, areas affected by erosion or other forms of degradation and intended methods of controlling regrowth.
A permit is no longer required for tree clearing for prescribed routine management purposes.
LESSEE'S RIGHT TO RENEWAL OF LEASE
During the last ten years of its term, the lessee of a Pastoral Holding may apply for a new lease over all or part of the lease. Lessees are not obliged to apply early. The three main criteria used in reviewing each application are:
Whether the present lessee has fulfilled the conditions of the lease.
If the same purpose is appropriate for the new term or if a higher form of use is more suitable.
If part of it is required for public purposes.
If a new Pastoral Holding or Grazing Homestead Perpetual Lease is to be made available, the former lessee is entitled to receive an offer of a new lease over all or part of the former lease. The current policy on renewal or conversion of tenure is to retain land in leasehold tenure where the State needs to maintain flexibility in its control over land use because of remoteness, aridity, lack of infrastructure, uncertainty about development potential, or lack of certainty with the suitability of the existing configuration of leasehold boundaries.
ACQUISITIONS AND RESUMPTIONS
Where some unforeseen public needs arise, the Government is empowered to resume part or all of a lease. The lessee has the right to claim compensation for not only the value of the land resumed but also any lawful improvements or for any severance and injurious affection to operations on the balance of the land. Compensation does not apply where there is a lease condition which allows for resumption after giving due notice and providing for compensation for improvements only. The Government can resume land only for public purposes, that is, it cannot resume land from one lessee simply to lease to another person, unless authorised by a special Act.
Since the holders of PHs, GHPLs and GHFLs enjoy exclusive occupation, they are no more likely to be resumed than the owners of freehold land and they enjoy the same rights to procedural fairness and compensation.
The purpose of leasehold rents is to generate a fair return to the State for the use of Queensland's land resources. From 1 July 1993, rents for all leases are calculated as a percentage of the Unimproved Capital Value (UCV). For this purpose, ten different rental categories apply. For pastoral leases the prescribed rate is 2.0% of the UCV with a concessional rate of 1.i% currently applying. The concessional rental rates have been applied as a temporary measure in recognition of the drought and poor economic conditions. The concessional rates will be phased out as the economic conditions of the pastoral industry improve.
At various times in the past, rents were reduced or kept low to compensate for downturns in the grazing industry. Over time, rental rates have not kept pace with inflation. The Government considers that if concessions are to be made to rural industry, they should be through hardship provisions of the Land Act and targeted to those most in need, rather than by maintaining artificially low rents across the whole industry.
ADVANTAGES OF A LEASEHOLD LAND TENURE SYSTEM
By maintaining the leasehold tenure system, rural financial resources can be directed to investment in the properties rather than in servicing debt. Security of tenure is important to all landholders and State leases are structured to meet that need. The Department cannot change the term or conditions of an existing lease without the agreement of the lessee. If lessees abide by the lease conditions, they have exclusive occupancy for the life of their leases.
With the exception of those leases within 50 km of the coast, the term of most pastoral leases was extended by twenty years from 1986. Thus almost all holders of pastoral leases enjoy security of tenure until at least 2006.
PLANNING LAND FOR THE FUTURE
In order to give greater certainty to the holders of State term leases which expire early next century, the Department of Lands intends to undertake planning studies of the pastoral districts of Queensland over the next seven years.
These studies will be undertaken in consultation with landholders and will be aided by community advisory committees. The reports will be published and draft findings will be available for public comment. It is expected that most of the pastoral country of central and western Queensland will be recommended for renewal as pastoral holdings or retention as perpetual leases in line with their present tenure.
QUEENSLAND’S CONTROLS ON CLEARING ON CROWN LANDS
Queensland's vigorous grazing industry would not have been possible without extensive clearing of native vegetation. But clearing has also caused land degradation, the loss of valuable vegetation and the decline of wildlife populations. Excessive tree clearing has caused major problems in other States, notably through secondary salting. Tree clearing in Queensland must be managed so that the risk of such problems is minimised.
Legislation controlling tree clearing on leasehold land was enacted in 1991 and 1992 and the associated regulations came into effect in September 1993. The intent of these changes was to ensure that decisions on tree clearing are made using the following principles:
Maintain productivity of the land
Maintain amenity, landscape, scientific, recreation and tourism values.
HOW THE CHANGES AFFECT APPLICATIONS TO CLEAR
Some notable features of the revised legislation on tree clearing (Section 250 of the Land Act and Part 4A of the Land Regulations) are:
Permits can be issued for periods up to five years
In some cases permits will be transferable
Tree management plans may be required
A permit was required to treat regrowth on land cleared before 1 January 1990.
Removed the need for permits to clear for routine property maintenance.
Except for routine maintenance, a lessee must not:
Clear a tree, or permit a tree to be cleared on the lease other than under a tree clearing permit.
Contravene a condition of a permit
Penalties for unauthorised clearing were increased by legislation in 1991 to maximums of 400 penalty units for an individual and 800 for a corporation. A penalty unit is currently
$60. An application for a tree clearing permit must be:
Made in the prescribed form and accompanied by the prescribed documents.
Lodged at an office of the Department of Lands for the district in which the lease is situated.
If requested by the Department, be accompanied by *a tree management plan.
* a map clearly showing the area to be cleared.
Applications are assessed locally and requirements may vary between regions. A permit may in future be transferred to an incoming lessee if:
A tree management plan has been approved
Before the transfer of the lease is registered, the transferee gives written notice to the Department that he/she is aware of, and agrees to, the conditions of the permit.
POTENTIAL HAZARDS OF CLEARING
In terms of land sustainability, the main disadvantages of tree clearing are:
Accelerated erosion due to inadequate cover by vegetation and leaf litter is serious in many catchments in Queensland. However, if more than 40% of the soil is covered, surface runoff and subsequent erosion will generally be low. On slopes above about 8%, more cover may be required and the maximum length of slope cleared must be shorter.
Surface cover should be high enough to protect the soil, especially at the end of the dry season, which coincides with the period of high intensity storms.
Trees can significantly reduce sheet and gully erosion because of the direct cover they provide and the protection offered by their fallen leaves. They also minimise landslip. But trees alone cannot be guaranteed to prevent land degradation, as they suppress grass and can sometimes leave the surface of the soil exposed.
Trees may help to prevent salting by maintaining a low water table and preventing dissolved salts from rising to the soil surface. Trees use more water from deep down and keep the soil drier: less water percolates into the? water table. Areas where water is taken into aquifers should not be cleared.
On coastal State lands, approval of the Department of Primary Industries is required to clear mangroves, as well as approval of the Department of Lands. Some landscapes are more prone to salinity than] others. For example, clay soils on lower slopes associated with permeable soils on upper slopes are particularly likely to suffer from salinity, if trees are cleared extensively.
Invasion by woody weeds (native and exotic species) is a serious and widespread form of land, degradation which may follow inappropriate clearing. Effective post-clearing management is essential to minimise these problems.
DAMAGE TO THE ENVIRONMENT
The environment needs to be protected not only in national parks but on all lands. There should, for example, be virtually no more clearing of river or creek frontages or lakes; periodically flooded areas; remnant patches of vegetation in otherwise cleared landscapes; or the habitats of rare or threatened species of animal or plant. As well as the total area conserved, the shape of remaining patches of timber is important: patches should be as large as possible and inter connected.
The adverse effects of inappropriate clearing may not be apparent in the area actually cleared. For example, erosion may silt up dam? or cause road blockages a long way downstream; salting may develop kilometres away from any clearing; and some effects-- such as decline of rare animals--may be perceptible only at a State or national level. Anyone proposing to clear should consider the possibility of such offsite effects.
METHODS OF CLEARING
No method of clearing native vegetation is without disadvantages:
Chaining disturbs the soil and this can lead to erosion, especially where the subsoil is highly dispersible (high sodium content). Most native species (particularly eucalypts) grow prolifically after chaining and control of regrowth becomes necessary.
Stem injection-- Tordoning can produce variable results in species other than eucalypts, and the regrowth of suppressed seedlings can be rapid.
Graslan produces variable results on smaller plants. It is least effective on clay soils, especially those with heavy surface litter or with high levels of organic matter. It is not possible to avoid treating non-target plants.
TREE MANAGEMENT PLANS
Tree management is an essential component of overall property management and should not be considered in isolation. A tree management plan should be developed when any broadscale clearing, or the clearing of sensitive areas, is proposed. It should cover a
period of at least five years and should include a plan of the lease showing:
the main features of the land:
land types, including descriptions of vegetation, soils and slopes.
the area which it is proposed to clear.
all other information necessary for proper consideration
the proposed method of clearing
how much to clear. In many parts of the State at least 20% of each land type should remain uncleared, and this should be in blocks that are as large as possible. Belts are generally preferable to clumps, and these should be at least 100 metres wide and clumps at least 10 hectares.
Where to clear. Generally the more fertile soils should be cleared first, since a smaller area will be needed to generate the same increase in pasture. It is better to clear a small area well, than to clear a large area and not be able to do the necessary follow-up work or to plant a pasture.
Landholders should recognise that uncleared forests and woodlands can be a valuable resource for timber products, for beekeeping and as a drought reserve, e.g. mulga. They can also preserve the value of a property by protecting or enhancing features not related directly to productivity, such as liveability, landscape quality and opportunities for tourism.
The better the information provided in a tree management plan, the greater the chance that the right decision will be made. For example, when describing land types it is not sufficient to say scrub or good forest country: greater detail is required.
Critical areas means lands which:
•are highly vulnerable to degradation (eg land which if cleared could be expected to suffer from serious soil erosion, salinity, dense regrowth, weed invasion, mass movement of soil or other substantial deterioration).
are of high nature conservation value (e.g. habitat of defined rare or threatened wildlife, land with identified locally rare or poorly represented ecosystems or particular species of plants or animals, land within 40 metres of a watercourse or a lake, a wetland, land within 400 metres of a tidal stream, land within a kilometre of the coast or land with other specified local features).
are a critical habitat or an existing or proposed protected area, as defined in the Nature Conservation Act.
A lessee may clear trees for routine property maintenance purposes without obtaining a tree clearing permit. These purposes are:
obtaining replacement posts for the immediate repair of a fence
obtaining replacement rails or posts for the immediate repair of a yard.
establishing access for fence maintenance or each side of an existing internal fence or inside an existing boundary fence.
building and maintaining a road? giving access to a facility
establishing a firebreak around existing buildings, yards or water facilities and on either side of an internal fence.
controlled burning of pasture to reduce fuel load or promote pasture regeneration.
ensuring the safety of people or property if c real and immediate threat exists.
removing regrowth (other than mulga) that emerged after clearing done under a permit granted after 1 January 1990.
providing fodder if the clearing consists of the lopping of trees
maintaining a garden or orchard.
The maximum width of clearing is prescribed: 6 m in south-east Queensland, 10 m elsewhere, 50 m around improvements. Even in the above circumstances, a lessee may not clear any trees in a critical area without permission and may not clear prescribed trees unless 28 days' notice is given to the Department.
The following species are not to be cleared, even for routine property maintenance:
ANY GIRTH: Sandalwood Santalum lanceolatum
GIRTH MORE THAN 39CM AT 1.3M: Lemon-scented Gum Eucalyptus citriodora rose
Gum Eucalyptus grandis Spotted Gum Eucalyptus maculata Narrow-leaved Red Ironbark Eucalyptus crebra
GIRTH MORE THAN 19CM AT 1.3M: White Cypress Pine Callitris glaucophylla
It should be noted that the definition of 'trees' includes shrubs and regrowth, not just mature trees. It excludes declared noxious plants and lantana. It should also be noted that apart from the restrictions on clearing leasehold lands, it is also an offence to destroy trees on roads, stock routes and watercourses without permission.
Mulga is often pulled for sheep feed. Grasses can germinate and become established in the shelter provided by the fallen branches, if stock are removed afterwards.
Under the Commonwealth and State Native Title Acts, native title may still exist on Crown land, some leases (but excluding pastoral, agricultural] commercial or residential leases), certain reserves and unused roads. Native title may still exist on land (including leasehold land) held by Crown agencies or local governments and due process would need to be followed before any tree clearing permit would be issued
DEPARTMENTS INVOLVED IN TREE MANAGEMENT
The Department of Lands controls the clearing of trees on leasehold land (except freeholding leases). This includes permits for feeding mulga. The Department of Environment and Heritage advises on the likely effect of clearing on flora and fauna.
The Department of Primary Industries carries out research into native woody weeds and supports programs on landcare, integrated catchment management and property management planning. It is also responsible for State forests and for clearing on roads and certain other non leased Crown lands. It controls clearing of vegetation on banks of streams and of mangroves.
As timber is a 'forest product' under the Forestry Act, all inquiries regarding commercial utilisation of timber should be referred to the Department of Primary Industries.
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Planning oversees the preparation of planning schemes by local governments.
RELEVANT ACTS – QUEENSLAND
Land Act 1962 (as amended).
Land Regulations 1988 (as amended).