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3 March, 2021

OPINION: Qld Govt’s interactive map ‘stalking’ farmers

"Since the second working day after the state election, the Queensland Government has had its own version of Aussie Farms."

REMEMBER Aussie Farms, the group whose interactive map inspired invasions of farms and processing facilities with the subsequent loss of businesses and farm animals?

To combat the aggressiveness of the group, fines for farm invasions were increased, laws were amended, and the group’s charity status was revoked.

The group, now known as Farm Transparency Project still have the same aggressive aims and the same invasive interactive mapping.

Since the second working day after the state election, the Queensland Government has had its own version of Aussie Farms.

In a section of a departmental website called longpaddock is an interactive map of Queensland which can be clicked onto and expanded to get lot and plan numbers, areas of lots, and tenures.

The stated reason for this map is so that the department’s estimate of a landowner’s long term stocking rates can be obtained by anyone so that groundcover obligations under the Reef Regulations can be estimated.

(There are limitations on the accuracy of that calculation which make it unsuitable for enforcement but that is a separate issue.)

More recently, landowners have had to wrestle the Draft Commercial Cropping Regulations.

After June 1, 2021, landowners in Great Barrier Reef catchments wishing to prepare a new commercial cropping area greater than 5ha will have to apply for an environmental authority.

The names and permit numbers of those businesses who have obtained authorities will be added to an interactive map with no thought given to privacy or safety of small business owners.

What sort of harassment and defamation of individuals will this inspire?

When members of the public, even small business, submit information to the government for any purpose, there is a reasonable expectation that privacy will be maintained, and only data that has been homogenised is released publicly.

A predecessor of this map was WWF’s Map of Shame released onto their web site which showed names, areas, contact details and GPS points of every holder of a high value agriculture permit.

This information was all supplied by landowners in good faith to government thinking that their privacy would be guarded.

Areas ranged from 2ha to thousands of hectares on very large holdings.

Large environmental groups followed up with media releases to urban media, often with drone footage of cleared areas with the clear implication that the landowner was clearing illegally.

These stories were sometimes so relentless that on several occasions, governments were eventually forced to confirm that the landowners did indeed have a legal permit to perform the vilified actions.

The cultivation of a perception, a frequent environmental group technique, has been successful with the social media crowd claiming still, that a great deal of illegal clearing is occurring. That is not the case.

Sometimes perception is everything.

With former longtime director of WWF now the Chief of Staff of Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, this government’s trend of disregard for the wellbeing of agriculture and its operatives, will not improve.

See the map here:

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