Australia leads land-clearing
Australia has been described as a global land-clearing hotspot.
Experts predict that in the two decades to 2030, 3 million hectares of eastern Australian forest will have been bulldozed.
The destruction has been linked to a booming livestock industry and the unwillingness of governments restrict it.
“It has gotten so bad that WWF International put it on the list of global deforestation fronts, the only one in the developed world on that list,” Martin Taylor, protected areas and conservation science manager at WWF Australia, says.
A majority of the land-clearing is happening in Queensland, where deforestation is known to drive pollution into rivers and eventually to the Great Barrier Reef.
In Queensland, about 395,000 hectares of native vegetation were cleared in 2015-16 – a 33 per cent increase on the previous year.
Despite a re-elected Labor government’s pledge to rein it in, notifications of planned land clearing in Queensland are up 30 per cent.
In 2016, the New South Wales Coalition government axed three pieces of legislation that protected native vegetation and wildlife, and replaced them with a single act.
But conservationists say the new rules make land-clearing even easier than in Queensland.
Analysis by WWF suggests a single element of the changes - an “equity code” which allows clearing of properties under 100 hectares - could allow the clearing of 8 million hectares, or 38 per cent of the remaining trees in the state.
In the largely unrestricted Northern Territory, figures from the NT government analysed by the Wilderness Society suggest approvals for land clearing have jumped more than tenfold in the past two years, compared with the preceding 12 years.