On 8 March 2018 the Vegetation Management and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 was introduced into Parliament.
The Bill seeks to deliver the Government’s 2017 election commitment to “protect remnant and high conservation value non-remnant vegetation; amend the accepted development vegetation clearing codes to ensure they are providing appropriate protections based on Queensland Herbarium advice; and align the definition of high value regrowth vegetation with the international definition of High Conservation Value”
Under the VMA, the definition of ‘high value regrowth’ is currently limited to vegetation that is an endangered, of concern or least concern regional ecosystem on land the subject of a lease under the Land Act 1994 for agricultural or grazing purposes which has not been cleared since 1989.
The Bill proposes to broaden the definition of high value regrowth to include vegetation that is an endangered, of concern or least concern regional ecosystem on freehold, indigenous, occupation licence and leasehold land (for grazing and agricultural purposes) that has not been cleared for 15 years. This means that a much greater area of land is likely to be classified as ‘high value regrowth’ and will no longer have the benefit of the ‘category x non-remnant’ clearing exemptions.
A further significant change sought by the Bill is the removal of the ability to apply for a vegetation clearing permit for the purposes of ‘high value agricultural clearing’ or ‘irrigated high value agricultural clearing’. If the Bill passes, development applications to clear vegetation for these purposes will not be permitted.
Other changes include the expansion of the definition of ‘Category R’, which protects regrowth vegetation along particular watercourses, to include the following water catchments- Eastern Cape York, Fitzroy and Burnett-Mary river catchments and the reintroduction of the requirement to obtain a riverine protection permit to clear vegetation in a watercourse, lake or spring.
Public hearings on the Bill are currently before the State Development, Natural Resources and Agricultural Industry Development Committee. The committee is expected to table its report on the Bill following the completion of those hearings on 23 April 2018.