The Queensland government has introduced legislation that will significantly change the operation of the Vegetation Management Act 1999. The Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 will wind back the relaxations of land clearing restrictions implemented by the previous government.
Significantly, should the Bill be passed, the amendments are drafted to take effect from the date the Bill was introduced – 17 March 2016. Therefore, landowners and developers need to carefully consider their obligations before undertaking clearing activity.
Only those people who are clearing under development approvals already granted or development applications or Property Maps of Assessable Vegetation (PMAVs) applications that are certified, determined or were properly made before 17 March 2016 will be unaffected by these amendments.
- removes provisions permitting clearing for high-value agriculture and irrigated high-value agriculture;
- reinstates compliance provisions;
- further regulates tree clearing in a watercourse under a riverine protection permit through the reinstatement of provisions in the Water Act 2000; and
- reinstates the protection of high-value regrowth on freehold and indigenous land, which will include the reclassification of significant areas of existing unregulated category X land to regulated vegetation as category C or R land.
Category R land includes regrowth vegetation within 50m of a watercourse in the Burnett-Mary, Eastern Cape York and Fitzroy Great Barrier Reef catchments.
As a result of the reclassification of unregulated category X to category C or R, people intending to clear will need to comply with the self-assessable vegetation clearing code. This code requires you to notify the Department of Natural Resources and Mines prior to clearing and, if you don’t, you may be required to restore the vegetation.
Significant areas of vegetation currently marked as category X are proposed to be category C under the amended regulated vegetation management map. Effectively, the vegetation is currently category X unless already protected under an existing PMAV but, when the legislation commences, it will be reallocated as category C retrospectively from 17 March 2016.
The retrospective nature of the amendments means that landowners and developers may be committing an offence and may face penalties in relation to clearing activity undertaken in this interim period. Landowners should be aware that it will not be a defence to a charge of unlawful clearing that they were unaware of the Bill.
To discuss how this Bill affects you, contact Leanne O’Neill.