Last updated 14 September 2020

Major vegetation management laws

The regulatory framework for vegetation management is provided by the Vegetation Management Act 1999 (Qld) (Vegetation Management Act) and the Planning Act 2016 (Qld) (Planning Act).

A system for classifying vegetation known as regional ecosystems (REs) is the basis for vegetation management in Queensland under the Vegetation Management Act. Under this system, the state is divided into 13 bioregions based on broad landscape patterns that reflect the major underlying geology, climate patterns and broad groupings of plants and animals. Regional ecosystems are vegetation communities associated with particular landforms within each bioregion. An RE is assigned a unique three-digit code reflecting its bioregion, land zone and dominant vegetation.

The Queensland Herbarium has mapped REs using satellite imagery, aerial photography and on-ground studies. Regulated vegetation management maps show what remnant vegetation remains throughout the state.

The conservation status of each RE is based on its current extent in a bioregion and is classified under the Vegetation Management Regulation 2012 (Qld) as:

  • endangered—if less than 10% or 10 to 30% of the pre-clearing extent remains (if the area of remnant vegetation is less than 10 000 hectares)
  • of concern—if 10 to 30% or more than 30% of the pre-clearing extent remains (if the area of remnant vegetation is less than 10 000 hectares)
  • least concern—if more than 30% of the pre-clearing extent remains (if the area of remnant vegetation is more than 10 000 hectares).

A wide range of operational works that is clearing of native vegetation is made prohibited development and assessable development under sch 10, pt 3 of the Planning Regulation 2017 (Qld) (Planning Regulation). Exceptions exist to cover clearing necessary to build a single residence, for essential management (e.g. establishing a fire break) or to protect people or property (sch 21). Unless it is allowed by one of these exceptions, clearing of native vegetation on freehold and leasehold land without a development permit under the Planning Act is a development offence.

Forestry

The Forestry Act 1959 (Qld) establishes a system of management for forest resources on Crown land such as state forests, timber reserves and forest entitlement areas, to ensure a continuous supply of timber and associated products, and to protect watersheds.

Marine plants

The Fisheries Act 1994 (Qld) prohibits the removal, destruction or damage of plants in tidal areas (marine plants) such as mangroves or vegetation in a fisheries habitat area without a permit or approval under the Act (ss 122–123).

Removing, destroying or damaging marine plants may also be assessable development under the Planning Act.

Vegetation subject to local law

Many local governments have passed local laws to regulate vegetation management under the Local Government Act 2009 (Qld). Vegetation subject to local law cannot be destroyed or interfered with without approval of the council. Information on local laws regulating vegetation management is available from local councils and online.

Matters of national environmental significance

A person must not clear vegetation that has, will have or is likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance unless approved under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth).

Matters of national environmental significance include World Heritage areas, internationally important (Ramsar) wetlands, listed threatened species, ecological communities and migratory species that can be found on any land including private property.

Fire

The Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 (Qld) regulates the lighting and control of fires, which is an important component of vegetation management and nature conservation. Generally, an open fire that is greater than two metres in any direction requires a permit from the Queensland Fire Service or a local fire warden.

An occupier of land also has an obligation to take reasonable steps to put out or control fires on that land (regardless of what caused the fire) and notify the fire brigade or police of the fire. Local fire bans may also be issued.