WHO SHOULD READ THIS

  • Landholders in Queensland and those involved in clearing riparian vegetation.

THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Submissions close 25 April 2016.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

  • Consider whether you need to lodge a submission, and consider implications for land resource management in Queensland if the Bill is passed.

The Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (Bill) was introduced to Parliament on 17 March 2016, and has been referred to the Agriculture and Environment Committee. 

The Committee is to examine and report on the Bill by 30 June 2016. 

Debate in relation to the Bill is expected to be fierce. Even the Committee reporting date was the subject of over five hours of parliamentary debate late into the night. 

Background

In 2013, the previous State Government amended the vegetation management framework in Queensland through:

  • the Land, Water and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2013 (Qld) (LWOL Act 2013), which (amongst other things) removed the requirement for a riverine protection permit to be obtained before clearing vegetation in a watercourse
  • the Vegetation Management Framework Amendment Act 2013 (Qld) (VMFA Act 2013), which (amongst other things):
    • permitted assessment of clearing applications for ‘high value agriculture’ and ‘irrigated high value agriculture’
    • removed the provision that deemed the occupier of land (e.g. the registered owner of freehold land) to have undertaken the clearing of vegetation in the absence of evidence to the contrary
    • restricted high value regrowth vegetation to leasehold land (excluding freehold and Indigenous land), and
    • restricted protections of regrowth vegetation in watercourse areas in some Great Barrier Reef catchments.  

Bill

The Bill seeks to reinstate some significant aspects of the vegetation management framework in place prior to the commencement of the LWOL Act 2013 and the VFMA Act 2013. 

Landholders may be particularly concerned in relation to proposals to:

  • remove high value agriculture and irrigated high value agriculture from the purposes for which a vegetation clearing application can be assessed; and
  • reinstate the ‘reverse onus of proof’, i.e. the requirement for the occupier of land in proceedings in relation to a vegetation clearing offence to prove that it did not undertake the vegetation clearing.

We expect the reversal of the onus of proof and the justification for it will be hotly debated.

Anyone clearing riparian vegetation may be concerned in relation to the proposal to reinstate the need to obtain a riverine protection permit (in addition to any necessary development approval under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld)) before clearing vegetation in riparian areas.

In addition, the Bill proposes to amend the Environmental Offsets Act 2014 (Qld) to remove the references to ‘significant’ residual impacts, so that the Act provides for environmental offsets to counterbalance ‘residual impacts’ from particular activities on prescribed environmental matters.