Vegetation clearing laws are complex and failure to
comply with them can be costly.
Fines can be significant. For example, under the Commonwealth
Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act
1999, clearing of plant or vegetation that is likely to have a
significant impact on a matter of national environmental
significance without first obtaining approval from the Environment
Minister could cost a company up to $6,095,000 per offence.
At a state level, the fines can be equally costly. This was
demonstrated in March 2017, when one Queensland landowner was fined
almost $1,000,000 (including legal costs to the State) under 46
separate offences for unlawfully clearing 350 hectares of native
vegetation at his rural property.
In another recent matter, Brisbane City Council commenced action
against an earthmoving company for failing to obtain a tree
clearing permit under the Natural Assets Local Law 2003,
even though tree clearing was 'category X' and therefore
permissible at a state level under the Vegetation Management
Act 1999. If successful, the penalty could be up to $103,615
Unless you have a thorough understanding of the many legislative
triggers and mapping overlays that identify the process for the
lawful clearing of plant and vegetation, it can be very difficult
to determine whether your proposed clearing will be lawful. This is
often compounded where multiple approvals are required under
separate laws for the same proposed clearing.
While most people are aware of the vegetation clearing
obligations under the Vegetation Management Act 1999 (Qld)
and the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld), the
additional tree clearing approvals that may be required at the
federal, state and local level are often overlooked.
For example, you need to obtain a permit to clear or an exempt
clearance certificate under the Nature Conservation Act
1992 (Qld) where a proposed clearing of native vegetation is
within a high risk area under the flora survey trigger map, even
where you have complied with the Vegetation Management Act 1999.
Relevantly, a significant portion of south east Queensland is
classified as a high risk area.
Cooper Grace Ward is a leading Australian law firm based in
This publication is for information only and is not legal
advice. You should obtain advice that is specific to your
circumstances and not rely on this publication as legal advice. If
there are any issues you would like us to advise you on arising
from this publication, please contact Cooper Grace Ward
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