Exclusive: Environment Minister releases reasons for rejection by Kingvale station owner Scott Harris of permission to clear nearly 2,000 hectares
The controversial proposals by a landowner to clear nearly 2,000 hectares of native vegetation at Cape York in Queensland were rejected after he rejected government advice that five threatened species would be endangered. According to a comprehensive statement given to environmentalists by Environment Minister Sussan Ley and seen by the Guardian, Kingvale Station owner Scott Harris, who decided to clear the land for farming, had also declined to pay for ecological surveys until clearing. In December 2020, the Guardian Australia announced that Ley had refused the proposal to log eucalyptus forests and melaleuca swamps in a catchment that feeds into the Great Barrier Reef. On Dec. 24, Ley issued a statement of reasons with information about the process and her decision to the Wilderness Society. “had not given his consent to those conditions. “Ley’s refusal under the national environmental laws of Australia was a rare case of a minister using national authority to refuse a development proposal. Preparing to bulldoze nearly 2,000 hectares of land rejected in the catchment of the Great Barrier ReefRead moreThe p p In 2014, the Queensland government of Campbell Newman approved approval for Kingvale clearing, but the proposal was referred to the federal government to determine potential environmental impacts. In 2018, environmental advocates successfully moved the court to compel a more thorough Kingvale plan evaluation. Ley wrote that five species: the naked-rumped bat, northern quoll, golden-shouldered parrot, ant parrot butterfly and red goshawk will possibly have major impacts on the clearing. Ley required surveys undertaken before clearing and a compensatory mitigation area established with a habitat enhancement management plan to protect the wildlife. Harris had promised not to remove trees on a portion of the property the same size as the area to be cleared, but Harris did not propose to maintain the area, according to Ley’s argument. “In the statement, Ley said there was “considerable contact” between the legal representatives of Harris and the government. Lay wrote that she interpreted the stance of Harris to be that there was no proof that there were any concerns of national environmental importance on the property or that the clearing would have any effect on endangered species. Ley had asked Harris to meet with her and the staff of the Environment Department, but Harris “did not accept those invitations,” she wrote. Law wrote that clearing without offset conditions would have led to a “significant new and ongoing source of pollutants,” with downstream fertilizers, sediments and pesticides entering the Great Barrier Reef waters. The area was allocated to clear drains into two rivers, Hann and Kennedy, which are 200 km long before reaching Princess Charlotte Bay’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. NSW’s Forestry Company could face a $1 million fine for suspected illegal logging in koala habitatLey said the development approval of the Queensland government required erosion control measures, but she wanted more steps, including soil protection, preservation of ground cover and management of sediments. “Gemma Plesman, a senior Wilderness Society activist, said less than 1,500 golden-shouldered parrots were known to be in the wild and Kingvale had a bird-friendly ecosystem. She said, “It is ridiculous that our system would even consider destroying suitable habitat,” she said. She said studies found termite mounds that were used for shelter by the parrot and northern collo, and that would have been bulldozed. “Our federal environmental laws need to be strengthened so that old growth and important forests for endangered species like the golden-shouldered parrot are exempt from destruction,” Plesman said. Harris representatives have not replied to email, text and voice messages requesting comment.