Land clearing on the Sunshine Coast is a regulated activity governed by a combination of local, state, and federal laws. These laws include the Vegetation Management Act 1999 (VMA). The VMA is Queensland’s primary vegetation management framework and has several goals:
- Conserving remnant vegetation;
- Preventing land degradation through clearing;
- Preserving biodiversity and ecological processes;
- Promoting sustainable land use;
- Decreasing greenhouse emissions.
As land development proceeds, environmental considerations change. As a result, the State Government regularly updates the VMA, so it continues to reflect the latest science-based best practices.
- Clearing regulations exist at a local and state level.
- Queensland’s vegetation management framework is informed by vegetation maps identifying vegetation categories.
- The clearing approval process should begin with a property report.
- Determine if your clearing activity is exempted work or covered by an accepted development clearing code.
- If your clearing work isn’t exempt or falls under a clearing code, you may be able to secure a development approval.
Land clearing laws
Locally, vegetation clearing is governed by the vegetation management code. The code works within the Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme 2014. The code provides performance measures and acceptable outcomes for environmental protection. The Planning Scheme’s Tables of Assessment assess development projects against the regulation. This ensures they align with the Sunshine Coast’s desired ecological outcomes.
At the state level, land clearing rules are set out in the Vegetation Management Act 1999 and the Planning Act 2016. These laws are part of Queensland’s vegetation management framework. The laws provide simplified access to clearing approval through accepted clearing codes. Projects not covered by a code may still be allowable with development approval.
Vegetation management act categories and maps
The Government categorises and maps vegetation across the state. Vegetation maps govern what clearing activities landowners can undertake.
Vegetation categories define vegetation areas by their relationship to management regulations. These categories determine clearing requirements on your property. The categories designated by the VMA are the following:
- A declared area;
- An offset or exchange area;
- An area subject to unlawful clearing or enforcement notice.
An area of remnant vegetation.
An area with high-value regrowth.
Areas inside 50 metres of a watercourse or drainage feature in Great Barrier Reef catchments.
An area not covered by the above categories. These areas generally don’t require a development permit to clear.
Maps containing information on allowed land clearing come in three forms:
Regulated vegetation management map
Regulated vegetation management maps show an overlay of the vegetation categories in a given area.
Vegetation management supporting map
This map provides additional information about the area. Supporting maps show regional ecosystems, wetlands, watercourses and essential habitats.
A property report shows vegetation categories at the property scale. Landowners can request a property map from the Government as part of a self-assessment.
The Queensland Government updates vegetation maps annually as new scientific data becomes available. The latest updates to vegetation maps came in September 2022.
The latest changes include the following:
- More detailed satellite imagery of Category C areas in the Great Barrier Reef catchments;
- Redrawn Category R and X boundaries on specific properties;
- Increased essential habitat areas. These new areas contain newly identified protected species of reptiles and plants;
- Updates to protected species modelling;
- 174,288ha increase in areas containing protected plants. This increase is due to the reclassification of 10 native plant species from least concern to vulnerable or endangered.
Landowners should pay particular attention to the increase in protected plants. Newly affected properties may now require a permit to clear certain areas.
Determining your property’s vegetation status
Ongoing updates to vegetation maps may place stricter requirements on some property owners. If you plan to undertake any clearing, it’s best to check your property’s status first.
You can request a free property report from the Government. You will receive the report by email as a PDF.
Along with a regulated vegetation management map and supporting map, the report includes the following:
- A protected plant trigger map showing areas where high-risk endangered plants are likely to be present;
- A map showing locations within a koala habitat area or koala priority area.
Land clearing approval process
Before clearing any land, you must ensure the activity doesn’t breach any regulations. To understand your responsibilities, beginning with a property report is generally recommended. The report contains information and maps of the location. You will receive the following:
- A regulated vegetation management map;
- Supporting maps;
- A flora trigger map showing any high-risk areas;
- A map of any koala habitat areas or koala priority areas on the property.
After receiving your report, determine whether your clearing activity falls under an exemption.
Exempted clearing works
Specific clearing works don’t require notifying the Queensland government or development approval. These exemptions include the following:
- Clearing exotic plants or an identified pest species;
- Clearing an area of less than 250 square metres;
- Clearing for property maintenance in a rural zone;
- Clearing to prevent harm to life or infrastructure;
- Clearing on less than 1000 square metres (subject to certain conditions).
Schedule 1 (Definitions) of the Planning Scheme lists a full breakdown of exemptions.
Accepted development clearing code
Clearing codes cover low-risk clearing activities and save time in the application process. Instead of applying for a development permit, you must notify the government of your intention to clear under a particular code.
Each code lists its scope, the notification process and your compliance and clearing requirements.
An exemption or clearing code doesn’t cover some clearing activities. However, they may proceed with development approval. Development approvals cover:
- Operational work;
- Material change of use;
- Reconfiguring a lot.
Work with us today
The Queensland Government regulates native vegetation clearing through various laws. The Vegetation Management Act is a particularly crucial regulation. The VMA governs how vegetation categories and map overlays impact land clearing rights. Review the latest vegetation maps to ensure your practices are legal and sustainable.
When you have the go-ahead to proceed with clearing, choose the method most suitable to the land. Forestry mulching is the most cost-effective and sustainable clearing method available.
Our services are ideally suited to the Sunshine Coast’s unique ecosystems. At East Coast Mulching, we have in-depth knowledge of the local environment. Contact us today for a free quote, and see what we can achieve.