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Estimates: Questions about delayed release of the Qld Statewide Landcover and Trees Study

During Parliamentary Budget Estimates on Friday 30 July 2021, I asked why the Government hadn't yet released the updated Statewide Landcover and Trees Study, and what the new data might show when it is released. 

You can read the answers below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).

Mr BERKMAN: I have a question about the Statewide Landcover and Trees Study or SLATS. The results of SLATS have not been published since the publication of the 2017-18 data. Director-General, why has no SLATS report been published since that 2018 data and when can we expect to see a new SLATS report?

Mr Merrick: In terms of the work that the department has been doing around SLATS, over the last few years we have invested in a major upgrade in terms of the capability of the SLATS program. Key enhancements include the development of new and robust methodologies to produce a detailed map of Queensland’s woody vegetation extent to be used as a baseline for ongoing monitoring and reporting; a transition from medium resolution Landsat imagery, which was the historic imagery that we used, to much higher resolution Sentinel-2 satellite imagery for the monitoring and reporting of woody vegetation clearing; the development of new approaches for monitoring and mapping woody vegetation regrowth, age and canopy density using the extensive LANDSAT archive and Sentinel-2 satellite imagery; and the development of a vegetation condition assessment and mapping framework to map and monitor the biocondition of Queensland’s terrestrial ecosystems. The 2018-19 SLATS reporting, which includes woody vegetation clearing analysis enhancements, was planned for earlier this year. A considerable amount of work is ongoing. The new methodologies are currently going through peer review. Once that peer review has been finalised we will endeavour to release the new version of SLATS. As I say, it is a very significant step on from historically what you will have seen through the SLATS reporting. The government has committed a further $9.5 million over the next four years to developing the ongoing suite of enhancements. I would say that the new tools will also be very useful not just for monitoring around the Vegetation Management Act but also for proactively understanding opportunities both at a Queensland wide scale and also on an individual property level scale—opportunities around things such as restoration and carbon farming. We are already in active engagement with the Clean Energy Regulator about them using our methodologies to explore those new opportunities in areas such as carbon farming.

CHAIR: Member for Mirani, I know you have a follow-up question and we might get that in, but the member for Maiwar has a supplementary.

Mr BERKMAN: There are very impressive developments in the methodology and what is going on with SLATS. Given the pause in the release of data, what can you tell us generally about the trends that that data is showing? Are we seeing an increase in clearing rates since the 2018 data, a decrease or is it neutral? What does it look like?

Mr Merrick: I have not actually seen the findings whilst it is going through peer review because obviously that peer review will be very much testing and verifying the figures that are coming out of the new methodologies. I think there is also broader work going on to benchmark the new methodologies versus the old. I am not in a position to give data, I am afraid, at this stage because I have not seen the report.

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