A LONG-RUNNING issue in Clermont has come to a head this month.
Visiting politicians have heard local pleas for a change to state laws that would allow the expansion of fossicking areas.
Frieda Berry-Porter, co-owner of local store Outback Prospector and secretary of the Clermont Community and Business Group, is a key spokeswoman of the campaign.
"This is a long-running issue,” she said.
"Gold nuggets don't grow back and prospecting makes up a significant part of the local economy.”
The Blair Athol Forest spans 54,000ha and includes a few General Permission Areas where people are allowed to fossick, however these areas are greatly outnumbered by the area that is off-limits.
"They are off-limits due to requiring permission to access from grazing leaseholders who are considered the landowner under the Fossicking Act,” Mrs Berry-Porter said.
"Being a state forest, these should be freely accessible to all members of the community, only requiring the purchase of the Queensland Fossicking Licence to go detecting.”
Because of this, the community is querying why there are off-limit areas.
With fossicking tourism one of the main economic drivers of the town, MrsBerry-Porter said the lack of access to the state forest and the lack of new GPAs was making people turn away from the area.
"People don't want to come back because there is no new land to detect,” she said.
"It is an affront to see the government unsupportive and unco-operative.
"It is an important part of our local economy but there is so much more to it.
"For many grey nomads this is a second home - some people have been coming for 20 years. It has social, physical and emotional benefits for them as well.
"We want answers, certainty and action.”
The group has also raised concerns about the Special Wildlife Reserves bill and its possible impact on Queensland state forests.
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