Proposed changes to the Native Vegetation Act 2003
(NSW) (the Act) will generally soften penalties and liberalise
restrictions on broadscale clearing. If passed, the Native
Vegetation Amendment Bill 2014 (NSW) (Amendment Bill) will
also bring economic and social considerations onto equal footing
with environmental considerations, in the assessment of whether
broadscale clearing is allowed.
This softening of restrictions will make it easier for
developers to carry out their operations. The mining industry will
also benefit from the Act's increased emphasis on the economic
betterment of the State.
Some of the key proposed changes are highlighted below.
Changes to the objects of the Act
Changes to the objects of the Act will give greater recognition
to economic betterment.
The current objective of the Act – to prevent broadscale
clearing of native vegetation unless it is "in accordance with
ecologically sustainable development" – will be replaced
with the object of preventing broadscale clearing unless it is
"in order to promote the social, economic and environmental
interests of the State".
Development applications for clearing will now be assessed
against these objects.
Changes to definition of native vegetation
Changes to the definition of "native vegetation" will
mean that prohibitions on clearing native vegetation will no longer
apply to indigenous understorey plants or groundcover.
Narrower definition of broadscale clearing
The definition of "broadscale clearing" will be
amended to "the non-selective clearing of large areas of
remnant native vegetation". It specifically "does
not include the clearing of single trees on a
selective basis". This is narrower than the current
definition, which includes the clearing of any
native vegetation or protected regrowth.
More activities will be excluded from the prohibition on
Routine agricultural management activities (which are excluded
from the clearing prohibition) will be extended to include
activities to reduce risk of serious personal injury or damage to
property. Drought preparation or recovery measures, any activity
necessary to control non-indigenous species of vegetation, and any
clearing for compliance with the Work Health and Safety Act
2011 (NSW) – will all be excluded from the
Reduced penalties and changes to proceedings for offences
The Amendment Bill reduces the maximum penalty for several
offences. Most significantly, the maximum penalty for carrying out
or authorising the clearing of native vegetation otherwise than in
accordance with a development consent or a property vegetation plan
is reduced from $1.1 Million to $110,000.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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This legal update is an overview of existing eligible project activities and new project types proposed to be developed.
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