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Tree-clearing committee receives 14,000 submissions, fiery Queensland town crowds and protests

Eric Barker, Thursday April 5, 2018 - 07:55 EST
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Protesters line the streets of Charleville before the hearing into proposed changes to tree-clearing laws. - ABC

A Queensland parliamentary committee investigating proposed changes to tree-clearing laws has received seven times more submissions than expected.

The State Development, Natural Resources and Agricultural Industries Development Committee .

Having only predicted 2,000 submissions, committee chair Chris Whiting said the current number of 14,000 shows just how engaged the public is with the issue.

"We've really caused a stir, people feel very passionately one way or another on this," Mr Whiting said.

"We will know in the next couple of days but at the last count we had 14,000 submissions, so it will be interesting to see how much we've ended up with."

Some of the committee's hearings have drawn fiery crowds and protests.

Mulga bulldozing front of the agenda

Bulldozing mulga trees to feed drought-stricken cattle has been one of the main issues discussed in the lead-up to the hearings and was heavily debated in the south-west Queensland town of Charleville.

Charleville grazier Scott Sargood, who made a submission at the hearing, said any restrictions on mulga pushing would put serious pressure on his business.

"We can't handle any more restrictions, not one more metre, not one more height or width or anything," Mr Sargood said.

"When you throw this in from the left wing, you're trying to do the right thing but sometimes you can't."

After taking all the submissions the committee will include recommendations in a report to the Queensland Government.

Mr Whiting said submissions like Mr Sargood's will be considered when the report is tabled.

"We are listening very carefully, and I hope at the end we can produce some laws that really give a good baseline, and a good amount of certainty for them be able to proceed in the future," he said.

"We've heard some passionate and very clearly-stated opinions from people like Mr Sargood and we really appreciate that."

Indigenous group backs landholders with mulga

The Charleville-based Bidjara native title group made a submission at the hearing supporting landholders' opposition to restrictions on mulga pushing.

Patricia Fraser from Bidjara said bulldozing mulga trees was essential for the town's economy.

"We need the landowners in this community — without their support our town would die," Ms Fraser said.

"We're all struggling through loss of business, you've just got to drive around town at the moment and you can see our town is slowly dying."

Ms Fraser said clearing mulga trees had been practiced by the Bidjara people.

"If you've ever been in mulga, it gets that thick that animals struggle to actually live in it," she said.


© ABC 2018

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