The Queensland Government will open up land on Cape York in the state's far north for large-scale farming and land clearing to increase food production.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney made the announcement on a farming property in Hughenden, south-west of Townsville.

The State Government is introducing amendments to the Vegetation Management Act in Parliament today to boost food production and reduce red tape in the agricultural sector.

Under the plan, regrowth regulations on freehold and Indigenous land will be removed, self-assessable codes for management activities will be introduced, and simplified state-wide vegetation maps will be created.

The move will make it easier for landholders to clear weeds and build new fences and roads on properties.

Mr Seeney says while native vegetation can be cleared, there will be strict environmental protections.

"The changes will be about allowing agriculture to expand, allowing for high-value agriculture as an exemption to the current tree clearing laws," he said.

"We will also address some of the nonsense that has crept into the Vegetation Management Act.

"These changes will enable the development of high-value agricultural enterprises things like mango orchards, farming operations of whatever sort, in what are relatively small areas on Cape York."

Natural Resources Minister Andrew Cripps has told Parliament the changes will not allow landholders to indiscriminately cut down trees.

But he says it will make it easier for them to manage their land and increase production.

"The Newman Government has made no secret of its plans to double agricultural production in Queensland by 2040," he said.

"These reforms are vital to that effort and to achieving that goal."

'Environmentally damaging'

But Greens Senator Larissa Waters says the proposal is environmentally damaging and a deliberate attempt stop the area from being world heritage listed.

"We are really alarmed the Newman Government has once again targeted the Cape for foolish, madcap, environmentally damaging proposals," she said.

"He wants to open up the Cape to industrial scale farming, massive tree clearing and big dams.

"The traditional owners of the Cape want these areas protected in world heritage, so I think this a deliberate attempt to derail that world heritage nomination by earmarking those very areas that would be protected to be destroyed."

Food bowl potential

Rural lobby group AgForce has welcomed the reforms.

AgForce spokeswoman Lauren Hewitt says the old vegetation management plan was out of date and burdensome to farmers.

"They have represented a pretty significant red tape burden last month," he said.

"The Queensland Competition Authority actually released a report and they identified the [Vegetation] Management Act as being one of the key areas of red tape regulation that they would like to have a look at and do better."

Farmers in Queensland's Gulf Country say the relaxation of land clearing laws will allow the region to reach its potential as a food bowl.

The chairman of Northern Gulf Resource Management Group, John Bethel, says the Act has stymied growth in the Etheridge Shire.

"There's probably 70,000, 80,000 acres of agricultural land here that has had no development on it at all since the introduction of the [Vegetation] Management Act because of those laws, even down to people not even being able to grow their own hay," he said.

"What that means is that you've got the expense of buying it in, you've got to freight it, you've got to pay the freight [and] you also import weeds into your area."

Mr Bethel says it will not put the area's natural resources at risk.

"From what I've seen, the changes are very sensible changes," he said.

"It's not about going back to inappropriate clearing or anything like that - I don't believe the Newman Government's in the business of doing that.

"But you've also got to realise that if north Australia's going to become the food bowl of Asia, and there's already one major development proposed in the Gilbert River Basin, they're going to have to clear trees, otherwise they ain't going to grow food."

 

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