Author Topic: Last-minute plea for cattle grazing on protected land  (Read 738 times)

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Last-minute plea for cattle grazing on protected land
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2013, 11:41:44 AM »
Last-minute plea for cattle grazing on protected land    THE RSPCA is stepping up pressure on the federal government to support a plan to turn drought-stricken cattle on to national parks and conservation areas in Queensland, despite being hit by seemingly orchestrated hate mail.

With the state government set to introduce legislation as early as today to go it alone, the RSPCA's national office will appeal to federal Environment Minister Tony Burke to get behind the scheme to save 25,000 starving cattle.

Animals Australia, the group that exposed the abuse of cattle in Indonesian abattoirs that led to live exports being suspended last year, also backed "giving cattle temporary access to some national parks for grazing in these circumstances".

The RSPCA is feeling the heat. Queensland chief executive Mark Townend said it had received more than a dozen strongly worded emails, written to what seemed to be the same template, slamming its stance.

He insisted the drought relief measures proposed by Queensland would not undermine the status of national parks.

"It's a decision made on the facts as they are," he said.

The Liberal National Party government wants to graze cattle on parts of five national parks and eight National Reserve System properties bought jointly with the commonwealth to get graziers through until the next wet season.

The plan, opposed by Mr Burke and federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig, would save 25,000 of the 300,000 cattle considered at risk from the drought affecting nearly one-third of Queensland.

Last night Mr Burke said any action "likely to significantly impact on a matter of national environmental significance" must be referred under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Some of the worst-affected areas in the state's far northwest were also hit by devastating bushfires late last year.

Describing the plan as a "practical answer" to the unfolding crisis, Mr Townend said it should not be derailed by a "stoush" between the Queensland and federal governments.

"My job is to help animals," he said. "And we believe there will be very little collateral damage to wildlife or the nationals parks by taking this approach."

Mr Townend said the RSPCA's national office would write to Mr Burke setting this out.

The minister has been scathingly critical of the Queensland government, claiming it was "trampling over the top of national parks" to avoid paying for drought relief.

State National Parks Minister Steve Dickson said last night Queensland did not need Mr Burke's permission to move stock on to the designated national parks and NRS reserves, many of them former cattle properties.

Crown law advice confirmed the areas could be opened as soon as the legislation went through the state parliament.

"The reality is we are going to move forward," Mr Dickson said. "What do you do? Do you allow cattle to die? We have no choice."