Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud will soon have the power of veto to stop native forest regeneration projects that would have an “adverse impact” on agricultural production or regional communities.
The new powers, which take effect on April 8, will apply to Emissions Reduction Fund native forest regeneration projects covering more than 15 hectares or more than one-third of a farm.
Such projects would also need to report on their compliance with State, Territory and local government requirements for managing pests and weeds.
Mr Littleproud said it was important to ensure carbon farming remained a net positive for agriculture, and that the benefits “stay in the hands of rural communities”.
“We want carbon farming projects to benefit Australian agriculture and regional communities, to reward farmers for good environmental stewardship, and provide drought resilient income that is spent in town,” he said.
“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen instead in some cases are projects that negatively impact the neighbours and the town.
“We don’t want to see entire farms locked up, becoming havens for weeds and feral animals as families leave the land.”
The minister would only have the power to veto proposed new projects or expansions of existing projects.
Mr Littleproud said he would still support “well-planned projects that involve the farmer and manage the land”.
“But I will not hesitate to act to protect community and agricultural interests over corporates and passive investors,” he said.
Federal Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said the new regulations were an important safeguard for rural and regional communities.
“As the Emissions Reduction Fund continues to grow, it’s important that we get the balance right between managing land, storing carbon and ensuring the ERF has a positive impact on agricultural production,” he said.
“Carbon service providers and project proponents have an important role to play in safeguarding the ERF’s licence to operate.
“The higher the standard industry sets, the more confidence the Government and regional communities can have in this scheme.”
Mr Taylor said the Government was committed to ensuring farmers retained control over their properties and had freedom to take part in ERF activities.