New regulations govern the use of vegetated land balancing economic and environmental outcomes
The legislative and policy framework governing vegetation clearing in Queensland for a range of land uses and development scenarios has changed, with aims to balance good environmental outcomes with correspondingly appropriate development proposals. Accordingly, development that was previously prohibited or difficult to carry out due to the structure of the previous framework may now be possible, providing that a good case be made for the development against the criteria of the new framework.
The assessment of clearing generally still depends on the following considerations:
- the type of vegetation (as indicated on the new regulated vegetation management map and supporting maps);
- the tenure of the land (e.g. freehold or Indigenous land);
- the location, extent and purpose of the proposed clearing; and
- who is proposing to do the clearing (e.g. state government body, landholder).
The recent shift provides a raft of significant changes, including different exemptions for clearing purposes, new self-assessable codes, and a new simplified mapping of regulated vegetation over lots in Queensland. The vegetation categories on the new map are:
- Category A (red): areas subject to compliance notices, offsets and voluntary declarations
- Category B (dark blue): remnant vegetation
- Category C (light blue): high-value regrowth vegetation
- Category R (yellow): regrowth vegetation within 50m of watercourses in priority reef catchment areas
- Category X (white): areas not regulated under the Vegetation Management Act 1999.
A significant change for most of the developments Martoo Consulting has experience in gaining approvals for – being small subdivisions to large estates, duplexes to multi-storey complexes and shopping centres, schools to marinas and community infrastructure, and even backpackers and bed and breakfasts – is the change in level of assessment from 2 hectares to 5 hectares. This means that lots less than 5 hectares in area will not be assessed for clearing proposed as part of a development.
The new self-assessable codes and clearing exemption purposes will also likely provide for some significant changes in terms of level of assessment; however these purposes and exemptions tend to be more circumstantial and applicable on a case-by-case basis.
In terms of the outcomes required of developments assessed against the State’s development assessment for vegetation matters, a renewed focus has been cast upon “environmental offsetting” as an acceptable outcome for some clearing that cannot be avoided or minimised. Offsets can be made either through direct offsets (suitable land with good quality vegetation under an on-title security such as a covenant) or indirect offsets (the payment of an appropriate sum to the government), means that the environmental impact may be considered economically quantifiable and financial penalties enforced accordingly, instead of the environmental damage being unequivocally prohibited. The process is somewhat complex, requiring typically an amount of field surveying to determine the ecological equivalence of both the land to be cleared, and in the case of direct offsets, the land provided as an offset.
Martoo Consulting has experience in managing offsets for properties in Queensland, though a significant change to the Queensland Biodiversity Offsets Policy (QBOP) has been earmarked by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection for early 2014, which will also require consideration upon publication for any significant changes affecting industrial, residential, commercial and agricultural land uses in Queensland.
To find out more about your property or development, and how it fits in with the changes in the environmental planning space, get in contact with Martoo Consulting and one of our experienced planners can talk you through the options you have at your fingertips.