22nd June 2010
The Property Rights Australia (PRA) conference, held at the weekend, featured a diverse range of speakers including award winning USA science blogger, Anthony Watts, Emerald-based Biodiversity Scientist Dr. David Stockwell and Solar Scientist David Archibald. These climate change sceptics shared their voice with those of landholders, vegetation management and property rights specialists at the Emerald Town Hall.
Central Highlands Regional Council, Councillor Kerry Hayes and PRA Chairman Ron Bahnisch officially opened and welcomed over 100 delegates to the conference. Participants came from all over regional Queensland and as far away as Western Australia, the Gold Coast and Brisbane.
PRA Chairman Ron Bahnisch said the conference had set out to highlight the administrative abuse facing rural landholders that had come to light not just in Queensland but in Western Australia and New South Wales.
“The PRA are seeing more and more cases of administrative abuse, and deprivation of property rights for rural landholders. This year’s conference aimed to give a voice to some of the worst cases in three states, to update members and delegates on our progress to date in our test cases, and to present specialist information that will help them to manage their way through any property rights issues they may encounter” he said.
Two of the most powerful voices heard at the conference were those of young American migrants Matt and Janet Thompson. Following the reduction of their feedlot capacity from 15,000 to 6,000 head due to arbitrary restrictions placed on them by the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) legislation they no longer have the means to support themselves and their four children and they are now facing financial ruin. On top of this they have been put under enormous emotional distress following the recent suicide of one of their former key staff and friend.
Other voices that were heard at the conference included Grazier Ashley McKay from Augathella in Central Queensland who outlined procedural abuses in his case and highlighted political and administrative abuse in Queensland. Cate Stuart also shared her story about having to leave NSW when her family livelihood and safety was severely affected by the threat of a stop work conservation order on her property. She was supported by Aboriginal Elder and academic Evelyn Crawford, who was at the time employed by the government.
Other speakers included Barrister at Law Phillip Sheridan who gave an update on the progress of landholder’s cases in the High Court and the Court of Appeal. He also discussed the constantly changing Vegetation Management Act and the need for property owners to regularly check and recheck property maps and boundaries prior to any clearing of vegetation.
“Fines being imposed by the Courts have increased dramatically. With fines exceeding $100,000 being applied for unlawful clearing following pleas of guilty, property owners must be completely certain they can lawfully clear their land” Mr Sheridan said.
Vice Chairman of the PRA, Dr. Lee McNicholl, addressed delegates on the challenges facing landholders due to the rapid expansion of the relatively new Coal Seam Gas (CSG) industry.
“The CSG industry is a massive under regulated industry that is being rolled out across the Surat and Bowen Basins, government action will have a significant negative environmental and financial impact on landholders” Dr. McNicoll said.
Delegates also heard from Rural Property Designs’ Stewart Cannon regarding how landholders can best manage and protect their property interests when charged with an alleged clearing offence.
The keynote speeches were hosted by Professor Robert Carter who facilitated a lively discussion, questions and answer session by climate change sceptics and scientists Dr David Stockwell of Emerald, David Archibald of WA and popular award winning science blogger Anthony Watts of Denver, USA. Mr Watts’ blog ‘Watt’s Up With That?’ regularly attracts up to three million hits a month.
The conference closed with an address from Craig Underwood, Past Chairman for seven years of Property Rights and Natural Resources Committee of Pastoral and Graziers Association of Western Australia.
Property Rights Australia is a non-profit organisation that has established a fighting fund to defend and restore the recognised and defined property rights of rural landholders. For more information on Property Rights Australia’s conference or on how you can become a member please contact Chairman Ron Bahnisch on 4933 4011.
For further information contact:
John Purcell, “Yatton”, Marlborough, QLD 4705
Ph: (07) 4938 9135 Mobile: 0419 772 068 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
PRA is a non-profit organisation of primary producers and business people from rural
areas defending the rights of property owners