Earthtrade has prepared this post at the request of a number of our registered landowners as an outline to some of the changes that are underway to Queensland’s Vegetation Management Framework.
Earthtrade is the leading offset solution specialist in Australia and as such, responds to questions daily as to the nature of changes to legislation and regulation for different clients across a number of sectors and states and territories.
On the 2nd December 2013 the Queensland Government passed changes that enabled the Vegetation Management Framework Stage 2 Reforms to commence.
In Queensland, this has introduced changes in the manner in which vegetation clearing is mapped and assessed and introduced new purposes for clearing as well as some exemptions.
These changes included amendments to the Vegetation Management Act 1999 (VM Act) by the Vegetation Management Framework Amendment Act 2013 (VMFA) and amendments to the Vegetation Management Regulation 2012 (VM Regulation 2012).
Minister for the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines, the Honourable Andrew Cripps MP, stated that “these new laws strike a balance between agricultural production and environmental protection, and represent the most significant reforms to legislation affecting the rural sector in decades”.
The intention of the amendments is to reduce “green-tape” for landowners, business and government.
The reforms include the following initiatives:
1. Nine self-assessable codes;
2. Vegetation mapping changes;
3. Amendment of the clearing of regrowth vegetation notification requirements;
4. New vegetation categories; and
5. New relevant clearing purposes.
The Vegetation Management Amendment Regulation (No 2) 2013 establishes the nine new self-assessable vegetation clearing codes which are:
- Fodder harvesting;
- Thinning of thickened vegetation;
- Weed management;
- Property infrastructure;
- Clearing of high-value regrowth, Category C;
- Clearing of a regrowth watercourse area, Category R;
- Clearing to improve the operational efficiency of existing agricultural developments; and
- Native forest practice code.
These new self-assessable codes mean that, if the activity is code compliant, that landholders can undertake routine property management activities by notifying the Department of Natural Resources and Mines, rather than applying for a permit.
Clearing must be carried out in accordance with the relevant code otherwise it will be an offence. If the relevant code cannot be used, then a development application will need to be submitted and a development permit will need to be issued prior to the clearing being undertaken.
The self-assessable clearing codes are available at the Department’s website at dnrm.qld.gov.au/land/vegetation-management/self-assessable-vegetation-clearing-codes
Vegetation Mapping Changes
The vegetation mapping has been streamlined by creating a statewide regulated vegetation ‘base’ map. This ‘base’ map clearly shows the areas of vegetation on a landholder’s property that is either assessable or non-assessable.
The new ‘base’ map has replaced the regional ecosystem map, remnant vegetation map and regrowth vegetation map and incorporated the property map of assessable vegetation (PMAV) into a single map.
Amendment of the Clearing of Regrowth Vegetation Notification Requirements
Parts of the VM Act have now been repealed and the effect of this is that the previous notification requirement for clearing of regulated regrowth vegetation has been removed for clearing of regrowth vegetation on freehold land.
Regrowth regulations on leasehold land for agriculture and grazing purposes have been retained along with high value regrowth vegetation along watercourses in priority reef catchments.
New Vegetation Categories
There have been two new categories added and five vegetation categories now exist. These are:
- Category A (remains substantially unchanged) – vegetation subject to compliance notices, restoration notices, offsets, exchange areas, voluntary declarations, or an area that has been unlawfully cleared.
- Category B (remains substantially unchanged) – essentially remnant vegetation.
- Category C (new category) – high-value regrowth vegetation (only on leasehold land for agriculture and grazing) – not freehold.
- Category R (new category) – regrowth watercourse areas in the priority reef catchments.
- Category X (remains substantially unchanged) – is an area that is not assessable and not regulated under the VM Act and is an area other than one of the other categories.
New Relevant Clearing Purposes
Four new relevant clearing purposes have been introduced, these are:
- For ‘relevant infrastructure activities’ and the clearing cannot reasonably be avoided or minimised;
- For necessary environmental clearing. This is to assist landowners to undertake necessary clearing to restore the ecological environmental condition of the land;
- For high-value agriculture clearing; and
- For irrigated high-value agriculture clearing.
For high-value and irrigated high-value agriculture clearing, if the clearing is to improve the operational efficiency of existing agricultural land, landholders may be able to clear under the self-assessable vegetation clearing code. There are guidelines for the requirements for land suitability and financial suitability for high-value and irrigated high-value agriculture clearing.
There are also a number of guidelines available at dnrm.qld.gov.au/land/vegetation-management/changes-to-vegetation-management-laws which will assist landholders for the new relevant clearing purposes. Landholders should be aware that they may trigger the requirement for offsets if they are able to comply with these Guidelines for all other criteria.
This is not legal advice and is an overview only of the major changes only as is relevant to rural landholders. Misunderstanding of the changes has led to a number of instances of illegal clearing already and these may progress to prosecution of the landholders.
If you would like clarification as to the function, demand or implications of offsets, please do not hesitate to contact us directly on (07) 4194 5009.