New Vegetation Management Laws

On 3 May 2018, the Queensland government delivered on one of its major election promises by passing the Vegetation Management and Other legislation Amendment Act 2018 (Qld) (“the Amendment Act”).

The Amendment Act restricts the rights of farmers to clear vegetation from their properties. The Amendment Act does this by re-classifying vegetation categories, extending protected areas, imposing stricter fines, and requiring new development applications to be made. 

SUMMARY OF KEY CHANGES AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR YOU

Re-classification of vegetation categories

  • New Category C (high value regrowth vegetation) will now also apply to freehold, leasehold and indigenous land that has not been cleared for at least 15 years (from May 2003). Previously, it was only applicable to leasehold land that had not been cleared since 1989.
  • New Category R (regrowth watercourse and drainage feature area) will now also apply to vegetation within 50 metres of a watercourse in all Great Barrier Reef catchments, namely Burnett-Mary, Eastern Cape York, Fitzroy, in addition to the previously protected areas of Burdekin, Mackay-Whitsunday and the Wet Tropics catchments.
  • As a result of the above changes, some areas that were previously Category X on regulated vegetation maps will be changed to regulated areas Category C and Category R. In doing so, it restricts farmers from clearing areas on the farms which they would have been able to do previously without notifying Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy (“DNRME”).

Clearing permits and Development Applications

  • Previous applications for clearing made under Categories C and R are no longer valid. In addition, landholders can no longer clear (or apply for) high value agriculture clearing or irrigated high value agriculture clearing.

Despite the above restrictions, landholders can still conduct necessary clearing. This may include clearing for property infrastructure, controlling weeds, preparing for or recovering from natural disasters or managing encroachments.

  • Fodder harvesting notifications made under the clearing codes are no longer valid unless it is during drought periods for feeding hungry livestock. Landholders need to make new applications.

Protected wildlife

  • The Amendment Act now provides protection for essential habitat for near-threatened Previously, this applied only to protected wildlife. Areas that have such wildlife will be published on the DNRME website: https://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/maps-imagery-data/online/

Landholders may be required, at their own cost, to restore these areas if they have been cleared, without approval, since March 8 2018. 

Managing thickened vegetation

The Amendment Act allows landholders to apply for vegetation clearing for managing thickened vegetation in Categories C and R.

The application must specify the location, extent and method of clearing. It must have evidence that clearing will comply with restrictions stated above and clearly demonstrate that the vegetation has thickened in comparison to the same regional ecosystem in the region. 

Riverine Protection Permits under the Water Act 2000

Landholders are once again required to obtain permits for clearing vegetation in a watercourse, lake or spring under the Water Act 2000.

Permits were required for destruction of vegetation in the 1990s but removed in 2013. 

Monitoring and Compliance

Under the Amendment Act, officers of the department can gain entry by giving a written notice of 24 hours if they have reasonable grounds to believe that vegetation clearing offence is happening or has happened. Consents or warrants are no longer required. The officers may also issue a stop work notice.

The penalty for offences has also increased substantially.  For instance, fines for ‘failing to stop work or restore’ has increased from approximately $210,000 to approximately $568,000.

The State is still required to prove that the land holder is guilty.

Going forward

  • It is essential that landholders get a vegetation report for their properties as soon as possible to see what has changed to their respective properties.
  • If any clearing or development applications had been previously approved, landholders should contact DNRME again to check the status of those approvals.
  • It is highly recommended that in light of the stricter monitoring and larger fines, landholders keep a good record of all the clearing work on the land.

From their North Queensland office in Townsville, Lawyers Barry Taylor and Michael Day prepared this summary of the changes.


More Articles


Access regulations for the Petroleum Act

Petroleum Act will come into force on 1 January 2021 The implementation of land access regulations for the Petroleum Act must be the catalyst for requiring the mining sector to operate in a similar manner, this is the position the Northern Territory Cattlemen&...

Read More

Emanate Legal's Barry Taylor comments on landowner rights during trespass

Townsville, Queensland: Queensland lawyer/solicitor Barry Taylor, Foundation Director of Emanate Legal, recently commented on the rights of farming landowners and leaseholders in response to a number of trespass incidents on primary producing properties. &ldqu...

Read More

Introductory Guide to Resumption and Compulsory Acquisition in Queensland

Introductory Guide to Resumption and Compulsory Acquisition in Queensland Written by Emanate Legal’s Barry Taylor (Lawyer/Solicitor) & Venesa Gleeson (Lawyer/Solicitor) Introduction In Queensland, the State or Local Governments can apply to take a...

Read More

Vegetation clearing management services updated

Barry Taylor, Townsville solicitor and foundation member of Emanate Legal, recently updated the information on the Services pages relating to Clearing Management.The updated page outlines the changes made by Queensland in relation to the laws for clearing vege...

Read More

Restructuring family assets for succession services updated

Barry Taylor, Townsville solicitor and foundation member of Emanate Legal, recently updated the information on the Services pages relating to Restructure of Family Assets.The updated services page contains information pertinent to primary producing families an...

Read More

Queensland grazier fined $450k for illegal land clearing

A Queensland grazier, whose bid to bulldoze native woodlands has the support of Federal Government MPs, has been hit with one of the state's heaviest penalties for illegal land clearing. Scott Harris and his company were fined $450,000 in the Cairns Magistrate...

Read More

New Vegetation Management Laws

On 3 May 2018, the Queensland government delivered on one of its major election promises by passing the Vegetation Management and Other legislation Amendment Act 2018 (Qld) (“the Amendment Act”). The Amendment Act restricts the rights of farmers to...

Read More

Getting landholders back onto the land

Writing from Townsville, Lawyer Barry Taylor maps out the legal lay of the land for the modern farmer in Australia. AS RURAL land values improve and cattle and feed prices follow the lead, Queensland’s rural property scene is now the new hot to...

Read More