The legislation governing the protection of Queensland’s native plants has been extensively reviewed with a view to coming up with a simplified and more effective means of addressing the impact of high risk activities as it relates to the conservation of our state’s native flora. The review aimed to comprehensively address those activities that pose significant threats to native flora, such as clearing of threatened native plant species, while helping to streamline the regulation of more sustainable activities that pose little threat to native plant communities.
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protect have implemented a new trigger under the Nature Conservation Act and this new framework is now in place. The changes will likely affect the resources, land development and agriculture sectors as well as private landowners and contractors who are undertaking vegetation management and weed control activities.
One of the primary changes to note is the introduction of a ‘Flora Survey Trigger Map’ which is used to undertake an initial desktop assessment of any planned clearing activities, even as small an area as that of a house pad. The requirement for a flora survey is automatically ‘triggered’ if the site falls within areas designated as ‘high risk’ with regard to potential impacts on native flora.
The following points give an overview of how the new framework may impact on different industry sectors, organisations and individuals, with more comprehensive information also available on the DEHP Website.
- Clearing of ‘least concern’ plants is generally exempt from requiring a clearing permit.
- The requirement for a flora survey is now based on a desktop assessment of the site using the ‘Flora Survey Trigger Map’.
- If a site is found to fall within a ‘high risk’ area then a flora survey will be required. The intent of the survey is to ascertain whether endangered, vulnerable, threatened and/or near threatened (EVNT) plants are present. Should the survey find no EVNT plants or impacts can be avoided then a permit will not be required.
- Outside of the ‘high risk’ areas a flora survey is only triggered if a person is or becomes aware that EVNT plants are present.
- Flora survey guidelines are available (take a look here) to ensure surveys meet the legislative requirements.
- Clearing permits now focus on the area of land to be cleared rather than individual plant species. Therefore, once a permit is issued and clearing has begun, reassessments are not required should additional species be found.
- Clearing permits are valid for a period up to two years.
- Re-clearing and routine maintenance at the same location under a protected plant clearing permit or exemption can be conducted within 10 years of the original permit being approved.
The primary take-home message for those affected by these legislative changes is firstly to take the time to request a copy of the trigger map for the area that you are looking to clear. This can be obtained through completing this request the DEHP website. Should your site fall within a high risk area then a quality flora survey will assist you to move forward with your plans.
Natura Pacific have extensive experience in this field and not only can undertake your flora survey to meet the guidelines but can also provide you with assistance and guidance to help you to gain the appropriate permits required under the new legislative framework. Please contact us if you would like more information or to enquire about how we can assist you to navigate through this process.