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Updates to Regulated Vegetation Management Mapping and Flora Survey Trigger Map

Regulated Vegetation Management Mapping

The Queensland Government released an updated version of the Vegetation management regulated vegetation management map on 21 June 2019 (version 3). The updated mapping presents revised regional ecosystem mapping (high value regrowth and remnant regional ecosystem), essential habitat mapping, wetland mapping and watercourse mapping (including extractive industry version). In addition, some regional ecosystem conservation classes have been updated. The revised mapping incorporates Property Maps of Assessable Vegetation (PMAVs) certified up until May 2019. The vegetation mapping will continue to be updated monthly to incorporate certified PMAVs.

The changes do not affect areas locked in as Category X on a Property Map of Assessable Vegetation.

The regulated vegetation management map shows areas that are assessable and non-assessable under the provisions of the Vegetation Management Act 1999. Accordingly, the mapping is of relevance to a range of development projects, such as urban development and extractive industry, that are assessable under the Planning Act 2016.

It is advisable for landholders and land managers to review the updated mapping to ascertain whether properties of interest are affected. Further, we strongly suggest that landholders consider registering a PMAV over their land to help protect it from future updates to the mapping. New Ground can assist with this.

The latest mapping can be accessed via the Government’s Queensland Globe tool and the Government’s regulated vegetation map request website (links below).

https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/land/management/vegetation/maps/map-request

https://www.business.qld.gov.au/running-business/support-assistance/mapping-data-imagery/queensland-globe

 

Flora Survey Trigger Map

An updated version (version 7) of the Flora Survey Trigger Map for Clearing Protected Plants in Queensland has been released by the State Government. The updated mapping has the effect of designating a greater area of Queensland as ‘High Risk Area’.

The Flora Survey Trigger Map acts a planning trigger, whereby properties that are mapped as a ‘High Risk Area’ must address the requirements of the Protected Plants regulatory framework under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

In particular, the requirements of the framework must be addressed prior to vegetation clearing and are distinct from the development approvals process under the Planning Act 2016.

The revised mapping can be accessed as Queensland Globe (link above) and the Government’s Protected Plants Flora Survey Trigger Map request website (link below).

https://apps.des.qld.gov.au/map-request/flora-survey-trigger/

Queensland Environmental Offsets review – Open for Feedback

The Queensland Government is undertaking an extensive review of the Environmental Offsets Framework with the aim to increase efficiency of offset delivery in moving forward. The review will focus on five key areas:

  1. Environmental outcomes
  2. Alignment with best practice
  3. How the Government measure offsets
  4. Security and transparency
  5. Offset opportunities

The review is to consider all activities governed by the Environmental Offsets Act 2014 including interactions between Queensland environmental offsets framework and the Commonwealth Government Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (and associated Environmental Offsets Policy).

A key outcome of the review process is for revision (scheduled for mid-2021) to the Environmental Offsets Act 1994 and associated policy.

The Government is calling for feedback on stakeholder experience in dealing with the offset framework and is seeking ideas for improvement.

New Ground has been approached by the Government to provide feedback and is in the process of preparing a submission calling on our long standing project experience and technical interest in this space.

To have your say, you can access the discussion paper at the location below:

https://www.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/94131/qld-enviro-offsets-framework-discuss-paper.pdf

Submissions close 5pm Monday 15 April 2019.

New Vegetation Management Regulation for Queensland

The Vegetation Management and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 was introduced to the Queensland Parliament yesterday (8 March 2018) and sets out to amend the Vegetation Management Act 1999, the Planning Act 2016, the Planning Regulation 2017 and Water Act 2000 for the purposes of strengthening vegetation clearing regulation in Queensland.

The Bill is now undergoing parliamentary committee review (including a submissions process) prior to becoming law. In the meantime, we are in the ‘interim period’ prior to the Bill becoming law. The following regulations became effective during the interim period (from 8 March 2018):

  • Category C (High Value Regrowth vegetation) is now regulated under an accepted development vegetation clearing code on freehold, leasehold, indigenous lands as well as under occupational licences.
  • Category R is High Value Regrowth vegetation that is within 50 m of watercourses in Burnett-Mary, Eastern Cape York and Fitzroy Great Barrier Reef Catchments. Clearing of this vegetation is now regulated under an accepted development vegetation clearing code.
  • Essential Habitat for Endangered, Vulnerable and now Near Threatened species listed under the Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 1994 with Category C and R areas is also subject to provisions of an accepted development vegetation clearing code.

A few points on the above as follows:

  • Regulated Vegetation Management and Essential Habitat mapping has been updated to present the now-regulated high value regrowth vegetation. You can request a map for your property at https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/land/vegetation/map-request.
  • For the purposes of the Interim Period, the Bill (Part 2, Section 37, Clause 131-133) defines Category C and Category R vegetation as that presented as such by Regulated Vegetation Management mapping dated 8 March 2018. Essential Habitat is presented by Essential Habitat mapping of 8 March 2018 (Part 2, Section 37, Clause 141).
  • Looking beyond the Interim Period, Part 2, Section 38, Clause 38 of the Bill defines High Value Regrowth vegetation as regional ecosystem vegetation that has not been cleared for at least 15 years. Notwithstanding, we anticipate that Regulated Vegetation Management mapping designations will continue to be used as the default definition for High Value.
  • Areas mapped as Category X on a Property Map of Assessable Vegetation (PMAV) are exempt from the mapping changes. Further, the Bill (Part 2, Section 37, Clause 129-130) prescribes PMAV applications to show an area as Category X that were lodged prior to 8 March will not be subject to the reforms.
  • The Bill (Part 2, Section 38, Clause 143) introduces near threatened species habitat (in the context of regulated vegetation regulation) as a matter subject to the provisions of the Environmental Offsets Regulation 2014.
  • Part 3, Section 45 of the Bill provides for property planning applications made (and not decided) prior to 8 March 2018 to be considered under the Planning Act as it was prior to 8 March 2018. Clause 331 protects current development approvals from the changes sought by the Bill.
  • Part 4, Section 47, Clause 48 of the Bill is of particular importance to urban development in urban areas. In that it exempts urban area/urban purpose development activities from the requirement to seek a permit under the Vegetation Management Act 1999 with respect to High Value Regrowth Vegetation. Notwithstanding, the above mentioned interim period controls do apply to urban areas.
  • Part 5, Section 49 of the Bill foreshadows the re-introduction of the requirement for a Riverine Protection Permit under the Water Act 2000 where assessable vegetation (including High Value Regrowth) associated with a watercourse, spring or lake is proposed to be cleared.

We will continue to follow the passage of the Bill and will provide an overview of the broader range of provisions carried by the Bill following the parliamentary committee review process. Since the range of changes foreshadowed by the Bill will have a different impact on any given development/land management sector, I am doing a ‘travelling road show’ presenting to our clients and project partners on the potential ramifications of these reforms to their businesses and how to prepare for them. Please get in touch (nwills@newground.com.au) should you be interested in having me drop by your office to discuss over a coffee or present to your team.

This blog is intended as a general overview and opinion at the time of writing and should not be construed as project or situation-specific advice.

Australia’s strategy for nature 2018-2030 – Open for Feedback

Environmental officials from all jurisdictions in Australian Government who make up the Biodiversity Working Group, reviewed Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy: 2010 – 2030 back in November 2017. A revised strategy has been developed with the intention to improve its ability to drive change in biodiversity management priorities and better support Australia’s international biodiversity commitments.

The revised draft has three goals, which are supported by a total of 12 objectives:

  • Goal 1: Connect all Australians with nature
  • Goal 2: Care for nature in all its diversity
  • Goal 3: Build and share knowledge

While the draft strategy is high level by nature, the final version of this may ultimately be reflected in Federal Government policy, strategy and guidelines.

Australia’s Strategy for Nature 2018-2030: Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Inventory is open now for public comment until 16 March 2018.

Follow the link below to find out how you can make your submission:

http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/conservation/strategy/draft-revision

New Koala Plan for Queensland

Nature Conservation (Koala) Conservation Plan 2006 and Management Program 2006-2016 (Koala Plan) will be superseded today, 1 September 2017 by the Nature Conservation (Koala) Conservation Plan 2017.

The main purposes of the Koala Plan have been revised to place emphasis on promoting the continued existence of viable koala populations in the wild and seeking to prevent the decline of koala habitats. Notwithstanding, the revised Koala plan is similar to its predecessor yet now reflects the structure of the Planning Act 2016 since the Koala State Planning Regulatory Provisions are now generally incorporated within the Planning Regulation 2017.

The practical intent of the Koala Plan remains generally unchanged which in our reading is to guide koala policy development/interpretation at Local and State levels within ‘Koala districts’. Matters that remain of focus to the Koala Plan relate to requirements for clearing of koala habitat, managing koalas through the clearing process, translocation of koalas and licencing requirements for interfering with koalas.

Some pertinent points from the revised Koala Plan are as follows:

  • The three (3) Koala Districts (A, B and C) are based on local government areas as per its predecessor. For example, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Logan, Moreton Bay and Sunshine Coast are among those within Koala District A. Koala Districts are shown on the Koala Conservation Plan Map and described by Schedule 1 of the Koala Plan.
  • The plan refers to the Planning Regulation 2017 for definitions of Koala Habitat Area (KHA) and Koala Habitat Tree (KHT). The definition of KHT is (a) a tree of the Corymbia, Melaleuca, Lophostemon or Eucalyptus genera that is edible by koalas; or (b) a tree of a type typically used by koalas for shelter, including, for example, a tree of the Angophora genus. The definition of KHA incorporates the habitat classifications as mapped by the Koala Habitat SPP map (Koala habitat values mapping in South East Queensland).
  • Sequential clearing as defined by Part 3 is required when koala habitat trees are being cleared in koala district A or B where the site is larger than 3 ha. In summary, for sites less than 6 ha; no more than 50% of the site’s area can be cleared in any one clearing stage and for sites greater than 6 ha; no more than 3 ha (or 3% of site’s area) (whatever is greater) can be cleared in any one clearing stage. At least 1 period of 12 hours (from 6pm to 6am) is required between each clearing stage.
  • A koala spotter is needed to supervise clearing in a koala habitat area where koala habitat trees have a diameter of 10 cm at 1.3 m above the ground. The Koala Plan defines the permits and experience to be held by a person for them to be considered a koala spotter.

Of note is that the Koala Plan is not intended to provide a State or Regional strategy around Koala conservation; we understand that this in preparation. Stay tuned…

Reclassification of 37 species under the Nature Conservation Act now in Effect

Effective from 12 May 2017, the conservation status of 37 wildlife species has been reclassified under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld). The 37 species consist of 14 flora species and 23 fauna species. For the most part (32 of the 37 species), the amended conservation status represents a more threatened status while the balance five (5) species have been reclassified to a less threatened status. A list of the re-classified species can be found on the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) website – http://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/wildlife/threatened-species/category-changes.html.

Some reclassifications of note include:

  • Greater glider (Petauroides volans) has been stepped up from Least Concern to Vulnerable. The greater glider is associated with eucalypt forest and woodland habitats and is distributed from the Windsor Tableland in North Queensland through to central Victoria. It tends to be found from sea-level to 1200 m above sea level (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2016). The broad nature of associated habitats and it’s coastal/near coastal zone distribution suggests that the greater glider could become a matter of interest to a range of development sites and activities. The greater glider is also listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth).
  • Woolly wrinklewort (Rutidosis lanata), a native daisy – stepped down from Vulnerable to Near Threatened. Woolly wrinklewort, a type of daisy; is regularly recorded in Queensland’s Surat basin. This species was reclassified to Vulnerable from Endangered in May 2014. This species has been recorded on several occasions over the years by New Ground. It is likely that the extent of survey effort undertaken in the Surat basin gas fields has broadened the previously known extent of distribution/abundance of the species.
  • Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola) has gone from Endangered to Extinct in the Wild. The Bramble Cay melomys was only found on Bramble Cay, a small (4-6 ha) vegetated coral cay (an island composed of coral rubble and sand) in the far northeast of the Torres Strait (DOE, 2017). Available evidence indicates that the anthropogenic climate change-induced impacts of sea-level rise, coupled with an increased frequency and intensity of weather events that produced damaging storm surges and extreme high water levels, particularly during the last decade, were most likely responsible for the extirpation of the Bramble Cay melomys from Bramble Cay (EHP, 2016).
  • A number of migratory bird species (associated with coastal habitats) have been stepped up from Special Least Concern to Endangered or Vulnerable. This change will have ramifications for the planning in relation to some coastal development activities.

Refer to https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/acts_sls/Acts_SL_N.htm to view the Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 2006, which lists the conservation status of species in Queensland.

Other environmental planning changes that have resulted from the reclassification include the scope of the Protected Plants regulatory framework and the Environmental Offsets Policy. The Department of Environment and Heritage’s Protected Plants Flora Survey Trigger Map has been updated to reflect the revised plant classifications. This could have ramifications for a range of projects, potentially triggering (or removing) a need for a protected plants clearing permit or exemption. The flora survey trigger map can be accessed at http://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/licences-permits/plants-animals/protected-plants/map-request.php.

Further, the Environmental Offsets Policy and Environmental Offsets Regulation 2014 have been revised to reflect species reclassifications. This could have impacts on environmental offset requirements for a given project.

Feel free to contact Nelson Wills (07 5575 7308 or nwills@newground.com.au) should you have any questions on the above.

Updates to Queensland’s Flora Survey Guidelines – Protected Plants

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) updated the Flora Survey Guidelines – Protected Plants (flora survey guidelines) in December 2016. In Queensland, all native flora species are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and all activities relating to protected plants (clearing, growing, harvesting and trading) are regulated by the Nature Conservation (Wildlife Management) Regulation 2006 (WM Reg).

When must you undertake a Flora Survey?

A Flora Survey, which must comply with all the requirements under the flora survey guidelines, must be undertaken when:

  • The proposed vegetation clearance area contains native plants in the wild; and
  • There is no relevant exemption under the WM Reg; and
  • The area is within the high risk area (shown as blue) on the flora survey trigger map.

Who can undertake a Flora Survey?

Flora surveys are to be undertaken by a ‘suitably qualified person’ as defined by the flora survey guidelines. The ‘suitably qualified person’ must acquire a total of 100 or more points from the self-assessment grading system table (Table 1) in the flora survey guidelines which is based on qualification, knowledge and ability as well as field experience. Several members of the New Ground team are suitably qualified to undertake these flora surveys.

What does the Flora Survey entail?

The flora survey is to be undertaken within a clearing impact area, which consists of the area to be cleared (to the extent that is within the high risk area) and a 100m buffer zone. A suitably qualified person is to undertake the field survey within the clearing impact area searching for Endangered, Vulnerable and Near Threatened (‘EVNT’) flora species in accordance with the methodologies provided in the flora survey guidelines. If an alternative survey methodology is utilised, an approval of the alternative method must be applied for as a variation from the flora survey guidelines.

What happens after the completion of the Flora Survey?

Subsequent to the flora survey, a flora survey report must be prepared in accordance with the flora survey guidelines detailing the clearing impact area, survey methods and results of the flora survey. If the flora survey does not detect any EVNT flora species within the clearing impact area, an exempt clearing notification alongside the flora survey report must be submitted to DEHP within one year of the completion of the flora survey and at least 7 days prior to clearing/disturbance works. However, if the flora survey detected EVNT flora species, a clearing permit alongside the flora survey report, as well as an impact management report must be submitted to DEHP.

New Ground has vast experience in undertaking flora surveys and acquiring clearing approval from DEHP for both situations where EVNT species have been detected and not detected. If you have any queries relating to how the flora survey guidelines may affect your current or planned project, feel free to call Nelson Wills to discuss further nwills@newground.com.au or 07 5575 7308.

This blog is intended as a general overview at the time of writing and should not be construed as project or situation-specific advice.

The Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill – Rejected by Queensland Parliament

At the beginning of April this year, we sent out a blog regarding The Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill that was introduced to the Queensland Parliament on 17 March 2016.

Following Parliamentary debate on 18 August 2016 amendments under this Bill, including those related to vegetation mapping were rejected and at this time the legislation is not to be enacted. As a result no changes are to be made to Queensland law in regards to mapping or vegetation management.

Before starting any vegetation management activities you can obtain the most up-to-date information for your property by submitting a request for a property report or vegetation map using the link below.

https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/land/vegetation/map-request/

Feel free to contact Nelson Wills (07 5575 7308 or nwills@newground.com.au) should you have any questions on the above.

Draft Code for Managing Thickened Vegetation – Open for Feedback

The Queensland Government has created a draft self-assessable code for Queensland landholders to manage low risk vegetation clearing without the need for formal approval. The draft code has been created with the intent to enable landholders to continue to undertake thinning activities in a way that protects Queensland’s regional ecosystems. The newly created draft thinning code combines previous self-assessable codes relating to the management of thickened vegetation into a single state-wide code.

The Queensland Government is seeking comment on the draft code from both landholders and stakeholders, submissions close at 5pm on 2 August. If you would like to submit your feedback, you can download and review the draft self-assessable code for managing thickened vegetation and answer the consultation questionnaire via the links below.

Draft self-assessable code:

https://www.dnrm.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/379626/draft-managing-thickened-vegetation-july-2016.pdf

Consultation questionnaire:

https://www.getinvolved.qld.gov.au/gi/consultation/3117/survey/3060/view.html

Queensland’s New Biosecurity Laws

The Biosecurity Act 2014 (the Act) came into effect on 1 July 2016. The Act consolidates Queensland’s former biosecurity legislation which consisted of many different Acts that had been developed over the last hundred years. The Act has ironed out many inconsistencies within previous legislation as well as creating a more flexible system able to cope with today’s biosecurity challenges.

The Act imposes a new general biosecurity obligation on any person that carries out an activity, requiring that person to implement appropriate due diligence, avoidance and management of any biosecurity matter that poses a biosecurity risk. Importantly this obligation is not only relevant to prescribed species in the schedules of the act, but covers all biosecurity matters including weeds that may impact on agriculture or the environment.

There are specific requirements in some circumstances for meeting the general biosecurity obligation because of the possibility and significance of the consequences for some risks. These are included in the new Biosecurity Regulation (see link below).

You can view the entire Biosecurity Act 2014 here: https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/LEGISLTN/CURRENT/B/BiosecurityA14.pdf

Under the Act, the Biosecurity Regulation sets out how the Act is implemented and applied: https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/LEGISLTN/SLS/2016/16SL075.pdf

Further information on the general biosecurity obligation can be viewed here: https://publications.qld.gov.au/storage/f/2014-10-20T00%3A23%3A59.350Z/biosecurity-act-ris-gbo-factsheet.pdf

The New Ground team has been in consultation with Biosecurity Queensland and has a detailed understanding of the Act. If you have any queries relating to how the Act may affect your project or compliance status of your existing activity, feel free to call Nelson Wills to discuss further nwills@newground.com.au or 07 5575 7308.

This blog is intended as a general overview at the time of writing and should not be construed as project or situation-specific advice.

Government adds 49 Species to EPBC Act Threatened and Endangered List

The Australian Federal Government added 49 species of flora and fauna to the EPBC Act list of threatened and endangered species, including 9 species that are now listed as critically endangered, in its 5 May 2016 listing event. The list of endangered species was first set up 15 years ago under the EPBC Act and this month’s listing event of an additional 49 species represents a 20 per cent increase on last year – the largest single year rise since 2009.

To view an up to date list of all species of flora and fauna that are protected under the EPBC Act follow the link below:

http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-tmp/publiclistchanges.17a4572b13bc386e313d.html

A new species listing that may be of particular interest to greenfield development in South East Queensland is that of the Greater Glider (Petauroides volans). The Greater Glider is now listed as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act, has a relatively broad geographic distribution (occurring down the east coast from northern Queensland into New South Wales and Victoria) and feeds almost exclusively on eucalyptus leaves. Further, Greater Glider is known to occur in a range of woodland and forest habitat types. Similar to the listing of koala populations as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act, the listing of Greater Glider has the potential to trigger EPBC Act referral requirements for a range of development proposals.

We note that a listing event generally does not have an impact on an action that was authorised prior to the listing event. In addition, a listing event does not impact actions that were deemed either a ‘controlled action’ or ‘not a controlled action’ prior to the listing event. Generally, it is actions that had not been referred under the EPBC Act (prior to the listing event) that a listing event may impact.

EPBC Act Policy Statement – Listing Events under the EPBC Act provides further detail around how a listing event impacts an action (see link below):

http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/474d03f3-8340-4566-80f8-c617c38a206b/files/epbc-act-policy-listing-events.pdf

New Ground has a range of experience in determining whether an EPBC Act referral is necessary, coordinating the EPBC Act referral process as well as the provision of time and cost effective environmental offset solutions. If you have any queries relating to how these changes to the EPBC Act may affect your current or planned project, feel free to call Nelson Wills to discuss further nwills@newground.com.au or 07 5575 7308.

This blog is intended as a general overview at the time of writing and should not be construed as project or situation-specific advice.

Blast from the past – Reinstatement of Ecological Regulation

The Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (VMROLA Bill) was introduced to the Queensland Parliament on 17 March 2016 and was subsequently referred to the Agriculture and Environment Committee for review. The outcome of the review is to be delivered on 30 June 2016. Overall, the VMROLA Bill seeks to reinstate land clearing regulation in Queensland that was in place until amendment by the former Government. This includes re-introduction of regulation of High Value Regrowth vegetation under the Vegetation Management Act 1999 and Riverine Protection Permits under the Water Act 2000. Amendments also include revision of the Environmental Offset Act 2014.

Given that the VMROLA is under review, it is yet to be seen whether it is ever enacted as legislation and if so what form an enacted version may take following parliamentary debate. Public submissions on the Bill are open until 25 April 2016. This blog briefly outlines some of the amendments proposed by the VMROLA Bill at the time of writing that we find to be of interest from ecological approvals and environmental offsets planning perspectives. We note that the VMROLA Bill does carry transitional provisions which generally have the effect of activating the level of regulation proposed by the VMROLA from 17 March 2016 to assent of the VMROLA Act. Given that this blog is general and summarised in nature, it does not provide project or situation specific advice.

Amendment of the Vegetation Management Act

Some of the proposed amendments to the Vegetation Management Act 1999 are:

  • Reinstatement of regulation of High Value Regrowth (HVR) on freehold and indigenous land;
  • The VMROLA Bill does not propose to alter the requirement for HVR to be a regional ecosystem that has not been cleared since 31 December 1989;
  • The State Government has released the ‘Proposed Regulated Vegetation Management Map’ (which can be accessed at https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/land/vegetation/map-request/ or Queensland Globe). This mapping enables a land manager to check whether their property is designated (at desktop level) as hosting HVR;
  • The transitional provisions of the VMROLA Bill specify an Interim Period (17 March until assent of VMROLA Act) which has the effect of regulating most clearance of HVR during the Interim Period;
  • Management HVR on Freehold and Indigenous land will need to accord with a self-assessable vegetation clearing code;
  • The VMROLA Bill prescribes that for Property Map of Assessable Vegetation (PMAV) applications made through the Interim Period, areas shown as Category X by the chief executive take no effect where these areas exhibit HVR (Category C or Category R areas). In other words, PMAV applications made or undecided during Interim Period will be assessed for presence of HVR;
  • The VMROLA Bill imposes responsibility for illegal clearing on the occupier of the land. In short, ignorance of the unlawful nature of a clearing action would no longer be an allowable defence. The burden of proof would be on the occupier to demonstrate that they were not responsible for the clearing. The VMROLA Bill requires that the chief executive serve a person a restoration notice if they undertake unlawful clearing during the Interim Period;
  • It appears that the re-introduction of HVR would not have a significant impact on urban development undertaken in urban areas. However may have significant ramifications for development in rural areas and agricultural land uses, particularly those that require broad scale clearing;
  • The VMROLA Bill removes certain agricultural land use purposes (i.e. High Value Agriculture and Irrigated High Value Agriculture) from the list of Relevant Purposes under section 22A of the Vegetation Management Act 1999; essentially prohibiting assessable clearing for these purposes; and
  • Further to the point above, the VMROLA Bill also restricts clearing of HVR for grazing or agricultural purposes on freehold, indigenous or lease (under Land Act 1994) lands.

Amendment of the Environmental Offsets Act

Some of the revisions proposed by the VMROLA Bill to the Environmental Offsets Act 2014 (EO Act) are:

  • The VMROLA Bill proposes changes to the EO Act which could broaden the range of projects that require environmental offsets by reducing the severity of environmental impacts that trigger an offset. In summary, a Significant Residual Impact on a Prescribed Matter currently may trigger an environmental offset under the EO Act. Currently, a Significant Residual Impact is defined as an adverse impact on a Prescribed Matter. The VMROLA Bill proposes that section 8 of the EO Act be revised to omit use of the term ‘significant’ so that a ‘Residual Impact’ on a Prescribed Matter may trigger an environmental offset and a Residual Impact could be defined as an ‘Impact’;
  • The above point would result in the need for amendment to the current Queensland Government Significant Residual Impact Guidelines which are used to determine the magnitude of an impact in a planning sense;
  • By proposing the insertion of a Part 11A to the EO Act, the VMROLA Bill introduces the option for a Commonwealth Offset Condition (i.e. under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Act 1999 (EPBC Act)) to be acquitted by paying a financial settlement to the State Government. This essentially gives the State Government a role in establishment and management of Commonwealth offsets. We note that this amendment does not preclude the applicant from delivering their own Commonwealth offset; and
  • Proposed Part 11A also sets up framework to enable environmental offsets delivered under the EPBC Act to cover off on conservation outcomes of the EO Act and vice versa. From our interpretation of proposed section 89C (a) of Part 11A, there is concern that a Commonwealth-approved offset proposal could be assessed again by the State to enable it to form a view on ‘if the offset is selected, designed and managed to maintain the viability of the matter’. This could potentially cause duplication or extension of offset requirements. We note that currently, section 15 of the EO Act restricts an administering agency from imposing an offset condition that is substantially the same as that imposed by a higher level of Government.

Reintroduction of Riverine Protection Permit Framework under Water Act

Some of the revisions proposed by the VMROLA Bill to the Water Act 2000 (Water Act) are:

  • The requirement for a Riverine Protection Permit (RRP) under the Water Act is to be reinstated where an activity proposes to destroy vegetation in a watercourse, lake or spring; excavate in a watercourse, lake or spring or place fill in a watercourse, lake or spring;
  • VMROLA Bill includes criteria for deciding an application for an RRP; and
  • Of note is that the definition of Vegetation under the Water Act is broader than that of the Vegetation Management Act and includes seedlings, saplings, reshoots, bushes, shrubs and trees.

 

Feel free to contact Nelson Wills (07 5575 7308 or nwills@newground.com.au) should you have any questions on the above.

Changes to Queensland’s Coastal Management District Mapping

The Queensland Government’s revised Coastal Management District (CMD) mapping has come into effect from the 3rd February 2016. The new mapping represents an adjustment to the area declared under the Coastal Protection and Management Act 1995. The Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning (DILGP) has assessment manager or referral agency powers to assess certain developments within the declared area (CMD) under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld).

The new mapping criterion takes into account the declared erosion prone area mapping which contains climate change factors such as a projected sea level rise of 0.8m to 2100. The methodology used to create the CMD mapping largely includes lots that have suffered permanent inundation by tidal waters or those where a rise in sea level and/or increased coastal erosion processes are predicted to occur. Generally, lots that are close to coastal creeks, rivers or the open coast are included and those which are inundated but are inland from the coast are not.

Full information regarding the CMD mapping methodology can be found here: https://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/coastal/development/assessment/cmd-mapping-methodology.html.

You can request a Coastal Hazard Map free of charge, by following the link below and entering your property’s details. The generated map will tell you if the area your property is situated in is considered vulnerable to coastal erosion, as well as the coastal management district.

https://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/coastal/management/coastal_plan_maps.php

If your property has been captured by the CMD mapping, this could mean additional constraints to future land use. If you have any questions on this feel free to contact Nelson Wills (07 5575 7308 or nwills@newground.com.au).

New Planning Schemes for Gold Coast and Moreton Bay

The new Gold Coast City Plan will come into full effect on 2nd February 2016 and the first Moreton Bay Regional Council Planning Scheme will come into effect today, 1st February 2016, replacing the existing Redcliffe, Caboolture and Pine Rivers Planning Schemes.

Under state government, requirements are in place to ensure that planning schemes identify areas of local environmental significance to safeguard values such as ecological corridors, priority species habitats, native vegetation and waterways.

Land use (zonation) mapping for the regions of the Gold Coast and Moreton Bay have undergone amendments which are reflected by the new planning schemes. As such, if you own a business or property in either region, the revised planning schemes may affect you. They may have an impact on what you can do with your property and what others around you can do. As well as zoning, overlay (constraints) mapping has also been updated under both planning schemes. In short, overlay mapping identifies a range of features that may need to be considered when developing land.

An overlay may apply to all or part of your property and your property may also be affected by more than one overlay. Overlays may affect the type and level of assessment as well as design requirements applicable – to see if your property is affected by an overlay go to the links provided below and search your address. By clicking on your property you can view your property report which will list all the overlays applicable to your site.

Further details regarding the new planning schemes can be found at https://www.moretonbay.qld.gov.au/mbrcplanningscheme/ and http://www.goldcoast.qld.gov.au/planning-and-building/city-plan-2015-19859.html.

If you have any queries relating to the above, feel free to get in contact with our office (Nelson Wills, 07 5575 7308, nwills@newground.com.au). We’d be happy to help you navigate through the environmental approvals processes under the new planning schemes.

This blog is intended as a general overview at the time of writing and should not be construed as project or situation-specific advice.

Logan Environmental Offsets Estimator

Logan City Council is blazing forward with innovative implementation of its Environmental Offsets Policy (within Policy 3 of the Logan Planning Scheme 2015) via its online ‘Environmental Offset Estimate Request’ (The Estimator). The Estimator is a great tool for use in project planning and while it has been available for a few months now, we still find that this is news to our client partners. As such, we have put together this brief and general overview for your reading pleasure…

In summary, the estimator enables a party with an interest in a property (in the City of Logan) to obtain an indication of the cost to resolve an offset obligation pursuant to the Environmental Offsets Policy. We understand that the cost estimate that is ultimately output by the estimator is based on desktop constraint designations (i.e. ‘Ecological Significance’ mapping of the Logan Planning Scheme) and the area of each ecological significance category proposed to be cleared. The cost estimate is produced on the basis that the landholder wishes to deliver a financial settlement offset (i.e. acquit offset obligation via a contribution to Council).

The estimator (Environmental Offset Request) can be accessed via the ‘Property Info’ tab of the Logan Interactive Mapping Tool. You can draw the area that is proposed to be cleared and then submit the ‘Offset Estimate Request’ so the offset estimate can be emailed to you. This can be used to get an initial view of whether a Council offset is likely to be applicable to your proposal and what the ballpark costs are.

Some of the matters to consider in offset planning include:

  • Accuracy of constraints designations – ground-truth the site to determine whether constraints mapping is accurate. Otherwise you may find yourself offsetting for a matter that isn’t actually present;
  • Seek to avoid – think outside the box to minimise (or even avoid) a costly requirement to offset;
  • Check the triggers – the Environment Offset Request does not take all exemptions into account which may be applicable to a given site. See Council’s Protected Vegetation Fact sheet for more detail on exemptions. Further, beware; environmental offset obligations can also be triggered via State and Federal Government level. A lack of offset triggers at Local Government level does not necessarily mean that offsets are not applicable; and
  • Consider your options – there are a number of ways to resolve an offset obligation. Paying a financial settlement to government is not your only option. Other options include proponent driven offsets and restoration offsets. For instance, New Ground routinely identifies proponent driven offset opportunities for our clients which result in a commercially favourable outcome and can be leveraged to give uplift to the client’s social licence. A ‘restoration offset’ is generally applicable to a small-scale offset where the offset can be delivered on the same lot as the impact.

 

Please don’t hesitate to contact Nelson Wills (nwills@newground.com.au) should you wish to talk offsets!

 

This blog is intended as a general overview at the time of writing and should not be construed as project or situation-specific advice.

EPBC Act Draft Outcome-based Conditions Policy & Guideline on Consultation

The Australian Government has established policy and guidance on outcome-based conditions under the EPBC Act. The draft policy and guidance will be applied by decision makers under the EPBC Act to assess proposals referred after 10 August 2015. In summary, outcome-based conditions are a new ‘type’ of environmental approval condition available to officers of the Department of Environment (DoE) in assessment of development applications. Outcome-based conditions are unique as they focus on the environmental outcomes achieved by the project rather than the means by which an outcome may be achieved. We see the introduction of this condition type as a positive step toward empowering development proponents to achieve their approval obligations in an innovative manner.

This blog provides a short overview of the outcome-based conditions and guideline as we understand it.

What are Outcome-based Conditions?

Outcome-based conditions set out the environmental outcome(s) that the approval holder must achieve for a protected matter. Outcome-based conditions are determined on a project-by-project basis to achieve environmental outcomes prescribed by the EPBC Act and its policies. Of particular note is that outcome-based conditions are not intended to prescribe how an outcome is to be realised. In this way, the proponent is given flexibility in their approach to achieve the agreed environmental outcome.

It should be noted that outcome-based conditions will not be assigned to all projects. Project specifics (e.g. nature of protected matter to be impacted), environmental performance record of the proponent and willingness to undertake ongoing monitoring works are amongst those factors considered in determining whether outcome-based conditions are suitable. Other types of environmental approval conditions will continue to be used by DoE (as summarised below). A project approval may include more than one type of approval condition.

What are the different types of environmental approval conditions?

  • Prescriptive conditions (technology or standards based). These requirements are defined within the condition and the approval holder has little choice about how to comply.
  • Systems-based conditions (management based). These will require the approval holder to develop management plans that the Department verifies are properly and effectively implemented.
  • Outcomes-based conditions (performance based). The required outcome or specific level of performance is written into the condition and the method to achieve the outcome is chosen by the approval holder.
  • Surrogate conditions (performance based). An outcome (or a level of performance to be achieved) for something which directly supports the protected matter is specified.

Have your say

The Department of Environment is inviting industry and the community to comment on the Draft Outcome-based Conditions Policy & Guideline. At the time of writing this blog, submissions will be accepted until 5pm on 5 October 2015. Refer to the ‘read more’ link below to access submission templates as well as the policy and guideline.

READ MORE

New Erosion Prone Areas Declared for QLD Coast

The Queensland Government has updated coastal hazard area mapping (erosion prone areas and storm tide inundation) to include projected impacts of climate change to 2100. In short this means that a 0.8 metre sea level rise scenario is now reflected by erosion prone area and storm tide inundation area mapping. Accordingly, new erosion prone areas (EPAs) have been declared under the Coastal Protection and Management along the Queensland coast.

Erosion prone areas are sections of the coast which are designated as being at risk from permanent inundation by the sea or coastal erosion by 2100. Despite the declaration of new EPAs it is important to note that the State Development Assessment Provisions (SDAP) which regulate development in the coastal zone (namely module 10) are still concerned with activities within the Coastal Management District (CMD) and as such EPA designations in areas outside of a CMD do not call up additional development assessment requirements for projects.

It is unclear at present as to what further changes to coastal planning in Queensland are being considered. However, it is conceivable that CMD declarations will be updated which would likely call in a broader suite of projects for State Government assessment against coastal planning provisions. It is also foreseeable that coastal hazard mapping and policy within some Local Government planning schemes will need to be updated to reflect new State Government mapping. On this basis, we suggest review of projects proposed near CMDs to evaluate the level of associated impact.

The designation of your landholding can be checked at the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) website (www.ehp.qld.gov.au/coastal/development/assessment/erosion_prone_areas) or via the State Planning Policy Interactive Mapping System which can be accessed at http://www.dilgp.qld.gov.au/about-planning/da-mapping-system.html

Please contact Nelson Wills (nwills@newground.com.au) should you require further information.

This blog is intended as a general overview at the time of writing and should not be construed as project or situation-specific advice.

MSES – Do you know what lies within the confines of your boundaries?

Matters of State Environmental Significance (MSES) are features of biodiversity interest to the Queensland Government as outlined within the State Planning Policy (SPP). The extent of relevance of MSES to a project is broad as they are contemplated under a range of legislation including Environmental Protection Act 1994, Vegetation Management Act 1999, Nature Conservation Act 1992, Fisheries Act 1994 and Environmental Offsets Act 2014.

In order to guide project stakeholders as to the likelihood of an MSES on a given project site, the Department of State Development and Infrastructure Planning (DSDIP) has published data layers which present the distribution of several of the MSES across the State. This mapping is intended to provide an indication of where biodiversity values are expected to exist within the landscape. Further, the mapping forms a default position for development impact assessment. In that, an MSES designation as per DSDIP mapping is often used as a planning trigger as to whether an assessment process is required for an activity on a site.

New Ground commonly finds that ground-truthed mapping of MSES linework on a site presents a significantly different picture to that painted by larger scale MSES mapping. Common examples here are regulated vegetation designations as well as wetland/waterway designations and the presence of prescribed wildlife habitat. On this basis, we strongly recommend that site-level surveys are conducted so that a realistic profile of project risk and opportunity can be derived (ideally, early in the project). It would be perilous to move a project forward based on desktop mapping alone as the risk of over constraining a project and/or failing to meet site-specific legislative obligations would be high.

To allow for refinement of MSES mapping, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) released the Method for Mapping Matters of State Environmental Significance for use in land use planning and development assessment. This method outlines the process for inputting site-derived data into statutory MSES mapping and therefore updating the environmental planning approval triggers pertaining to your site/project area.

Refer to DEHP page http://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/land/natural-resource/method-mapping-mses.html for further detail and access to associated guidelines and tools.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any queries with respect to this topic or should you be looking for a more innovative way of ground-truthing your site/project area.

Nelson Wills (07 5575 7308).

This blog provides a summarised overview of our interpretation and opinions with respect to MSES mapping at the time of writing. This blog is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for legal or project-specific development planning advice!

New EPBC Act Koala Referral Guidelines Released

The Department of the Environment (DoE) released new Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 ‘(EPBC Act) Referral Guidelines for the Vulnerable Koala’ in late December 2014 (‘the new guideline’). The guidelines supersede the Draft Referral Guidelines that were in operation up to late last year. This blog provides a general overview of the new Referral Guidelines as gleaned by the author through practical application of the guidelines and from a briefing delivered by DoE Director of Assessments, Ms. Vicki Press, on the topic on 21 January 2015.

As background, Koala (combined populations of Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory) were listed as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act on 2 May 2012. Since the listing of the species, there have been three referral guidelines released on the matter. There was the Interim Koala Referral Advice (released in June 2012), the Draft EPBC Act Referral Guidelines (released in December 2013) and now the EPBC Act Referral Guidelines for the Vulnerable Koala (December 2014). It is noted that the new guideline is not a statutory instrument, yet it is used by DoE in referral assessment.

In our view, the new guideline is very similar to the former Draft Referral Guidelines. In that, assessment focus on koala habitat and the habitat assessment tool are generally unchanged. What the new guidelines do however, is provide greater clarity around DoE’s view of what constitutes ‘habitat critical to the survival’ and ‘important populations’ (of koala), provide more detailed definitions of terms used through the assessment process and provide a clearer indication of the ‘weighting’ that DoE will give to particular koala impact mitigation design measures.

A theme that comes through in the new guideline is for the EPBC Act assessment process to focus on larger areas of habitat likely to be important for long term survival / recovery of koala. We understand that the intent is for State and Local government planning processes to manage impacts on koala concerning smaller parcels of habitat. In this way, DoE expect that fewer projects will require EPBC Act approval for impacts on koala.

Key changes between the Draft Referral Guideline and the new guideline include:

  • Greater alignment with State and Local Government definitions and assessment processes;
  • Further detail on the level of habitat clearing likely to be deemed by DoE as significant;
  • Greater detail around survey design expectations;
  • Clarification of use of inputs in applying the ‘habitat assessment tool’ to a project;
  • Clarifies that DoE does not consider koala translocation as an effective impact mitigation measure; and
  • Specifies that DoE won’t consider offsets at referral stage. Rather, mitigation measures around reducing the

impact of development on site are a focus area at initial stages.

A few general points, taken straight from the new guidelines that may be of interest to those planning and managing projects are as follows:

  • The loss of 20 hectares or more of high quality habitat critical to the survival (habitat score of ≥ 8) is highly likely to have a significant impact for the purposes of the EPBC Act;
  • The loss of two hectares or less of marginal quality habitat critical to the survival (habitat score of 5) is highly unlikely to have a significant impact on the koala for the purposes of the EPBC Act;
  • The loss of between 2 and 20 ha of habitat critical to the survival may have a significant impact on the koala for the purposes of the EPBC Act. Whether this is more likely or unlikely depends on the characteristics of your action; and
  • Urban areas are not likely to contain habitat critical to the survival of the koala, as the existing effects of habitat loss, fragmentation, vehicle strike, dog attack and other threats are likely to continue to degrade these areas over the medium to long-term. These existing threats are best addressed by local remedial action, rather than through regulation under the EPBC Act.

As a general ‘heads up’, be aware that DoE has implemented a cost recovery for assessment of referrals process (for referrals made after 1 October 2014). This means that it is no longer free to have an EPBC Act referral assessed. To the contrary, assessment now can be fairly costly, starting with an application fee of $7352 (subject to the nature of the proposal) and in addition to this the cost of assessment (based on hours required to assess application) is passed on to the proponent. In the interest of cost reduction, it is all the more important that referral documentation is as comprehensive and ‘easy to assess’ as possible.

Looking to the future, DoE is in the process of finalising the National Koala Conservation Strategy and is developing the National Koala Recovery Plan in collaboration with State and Territory agencies. On this basis, we could expect to see another version of the koala referral guidelines in the not too distant future upon completion of the Recovery Plan in particular. Further, at a Queensland level, the implementation of the Bilateral Agreement between the Federal Government and Queensland will likely bring change as we start to see Queensland policy and assessment processes accredited under the EPBC Act.

The new guideline can currently be accessed at – http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/epbc-act-referral-guidelines-vulnerable-koala

Please don’t hesitate to give me a call should you require further detail.

Regards

Nelson Wills

Pieces of the Puzzle – Additions to the Queensland Offsets Framework

The Queensland Government enacted amendments to the Queensland Environmental Offsets Framework (the ‘Framework’) on 19 December 2014. This made for some riveting pool-side reading over the holidays!

The amendments are significant as they include a revised Environmental Offsets Regulation 2014 and further information as to the implementation of the Framework to projects. This blog is intended as a general overview on the tools that are now available which may be of assistance to project managers and technical practitioners. This blog is general in nature and should not be construed as project or situation-specific advice.

Amendments and additions to the Framework are summarised as:

  • Revisions to the Environmental Offsets Regulation 2014;
  • New version of the Queensland Environmental Offsets Policy (version 1.1, dated 19 December 2014);
  • Amendments to the Financial Settlement Offsets Calculator and associated web-based calculator;
  • Introduction of tools to guide proponents in designing their own land-based offset proposition, namely the ‘Guide to Determining Terrestrial Habitat Quality’ and the associated ‘Habitat Quality Scoring Template’; and
  • Introduction of Significant Impact Guidelines.

Each of the amendments and additions listed above are briefly discussed in the following. We note that components of the Framework can currently be found at the following Queensland Government website http://www.qld.gov.au/environment/pollution/management/offsets/.

Revisions to the Environmental Offsets Regulation

The enactment of the Environmental Offsets Regulation 2014 on 19 December 2014 brings into force those provisions of the Environment Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014 (‘EPOLA Act’) that relate to the Environmental Offsets Act 2014 and Environmental Offsets Regulation 2014. Refer to our blog on EPOLA Act for an overview of some of these introductions (https://www.newground.com.au/resources/update-queensland-offsets-framework/).

New Version of Queensland Environmental Offsets Policy

Version 1.1 of the Queensland Environmental Offsets Policy (‘QEOP’) was released on 19 December 2014 (http://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/assets/documents/pollution/management/offsets/offsets-policyv1-1.pdf). The QEOP clarifies the State’s intent for the delivery of aquatic and the terrestrial offsets. From a practical perspective, the QEOP provides technical detail around State Government expectations for offsets, offset staging and calculation of financial settlement offset contributions. A few key points which may be of interest in project planning are:

  • The QEOP is primarily concerned with offsets for Matters of State Environmental Significance (MSES). While it does describe mechanisms to avoid offset duplication across levels of government, it does not replace the Commonwealth Government’s environmental offsets policy nor those of Local Governments.
  • An offset may only be imposed when a Prescribed Activity is expected to have a Significant Residual Impact on a Prescribed Environmental Matter as determined through reference to a State, Local or Commonwealth Government significant impact guideline.
  • Reference to technical tools outlining requirements for Land-based Offsets, namely introduction of a habitat quality assessment process via the methodology described by EHP’s recently released Guide to Determining Terrestrial Habitat Quality. This Guide is to be used in concert with the Land-based Offsets Multiplier Calculator as a method of determining environmental equivalence between the impact site and offset proposition.
  • A greater focus on offset delivery by Local Governments including more prescriptive requirements for offset placement. Priority is placed upon delivery of offsets within a Strategic Offset Investment Corridor or within the local government area of disturbance.
  • Local Governments can use their own habitat assessment and environmental equivalence calculator tools to determine environmental offset requirements where the offset pertains to a Significant Residual Impact on a Matter of Local Environmental Significance (MLES). However, QEOP caps the MLES offset to impact area ratio at a maximum of 4:1.
  • Koala offsets are generally required to consist of 3 koala habitat tree plantings for each non juvenile tree removed. The Policy outlines locational requirements for the placement of koala offsets in South East Queensland which generally ties an offset site into the same local government area of the impact site. Further, emphasis is placed on offset placement within high or medium value areas suitable for rehabilitation habitat as defined by the South East Queensland Koala Conservation State Planning Regulatory Provisions. Parameters for placement of koala offsets are not as prescriptive in areas of Queensland that are outside of the SEQ region.
  • For those that choose not to find their own offset proposition, the current version of the Financial Settlement Offset Methodology caps the financial settlement contribution for koala habitat in SEQ at $250,000/ha.
  • Amendments to the Financial Settlement Offset Methodology are presented in Appendix 4 of QEOP, which discount administration fees and reduce cost for smaller impact areas. In that, an administrative cost floor price of $50,000 has been introduced for impacts over 2.5 hectares. However, the administrative cost will not be applied for impacts on areas less than 2.5 ha.  At the other end of the spectrum, the upper cap for the administrative cost is $1,000,000.
  • It is noted that local government is able to determine financial settlement amount using their own methodology provided that the amount does not exceed that derived from the Financial Settlement Offset Methodology.
  • ‘Pre-packaged’ Direct Benefit Management Plan offset options are presented by the Policy. A DBMP relates to a management action that benefits the environmental matter of concern and can account for up to 10% of a total offset requirement where the offset relates to a site that is not a Protected Area. Generally, a DBMP cannot be used as part of a koala offset package.
  • Process for staged delivery of offsets in line with stages of a Prescribed Activity is outlined.
  • Particular offset requirements for impacts within Protected Areas are presented. In summary, offset ratios are much higher in these areas (generally 10:1).
  • Detail is provided around requirements for self-administered codes of compliance which can be used by government departments and government-owned corporations.

Significant Residual Impact Guideline

The Significant Residual Impact Guideline was introduced on 19 December 2014 and is a key tool in determining whether State Government offsets apply to a project. This is the case as the Environmental Offsets Act 2014 only allows an administering authority to impose an offset where a prescribed activity is to have a significant residual impact on a prescribed environmental matter after all reasonable attempts are made to avoid and mitigate impacts. The Guideline pertains to MSES only.

The Guideline presents impact thresholds for MSES and themes including:

  • Regulated vegetation (of concern and endangered regional ecosystems). Significant Residual Impact thresholds based on clearing width/area.
  • Connectivity areas. Thresholds based on change in remnant extent at local scale post impact.
  • Prescribed wetlands and watercourses. Thresholds based on nature of hydrogeological, ecological, hydrological and landform change.
  • Protected Wildlife Habitat. Concerned with ‘Essential Habitat’, ‘high risk areas’ on flora survey trigger map, areas of habitat for endangered, vulnerable or special least concern animals and areas containing endangered or vulnerable plants. Significant Residual Impact thresholds based on the nature of impacts on the life history of the given species.
  • Koala habitat in SEQ. Concerned with any area which contains or is known to contain koalas within SEQ. Removal of a non-juvenile koala habitat tree generally constitutes a significant residual impact on this matter.
  • Protected Areas. Thresholds are based around with clearing, inundation, exclusion of public use and reduction of natural or cultural values within a national park, regional park or nature refuge.
  • Fish Habitat Areas and Highly Protected Zones of State Marine Parks. A series of exempt activities, such as public works, are listed by the Guideline. All other actions with a footprint of 40m2or greater generally constitute a Significant Residual Impact on this matter.
  • Waterway providing for fish passage. Relates to waterways (other than areas of these within urban areas) where an activity is expected to limit fish passage. Thresholds are based on impacts of barriers to passage.
  • Marine Plants. In summary, private and public infrastructure works impacting greater than 17m2 and 25m2 respectively of fish habitat (marine plants) will generally form a significant residual impact on this matter.
  • Legally Secured Offset Areas. This relates to impacts on declared environmental offset areas and whether the proposed impact is consistent with its declaration as an offset.

Of note is that the Significant Impact Guideline states that rehabilitation works on an impact site can negate a requirement for an offset or contribute toward an offset requirement.

In Conclusion

The new additions to the Framework provide project proponents with greater certainty around offset triggers, obligations and delivery mechanisms. With this greater certainty comes a higher level of prescriptivism when it comes to the perceived value of an offset proposition and its location, size and technical nature.

While there are many similarities between the Queensland Government’s offset framework and that of the Commonwealth Government, there are stark differences between the two. Namely, the Commonwealth does not tend to focus on the use of local government boundaries in offset location selection nor does it tend to be as prescriptive around how an offset is delivered. Further, offset ratios for the same matter can be different between the two frameworks.

We suggest that our clients and project partners look closely at the level of proposed project impact in deciding whether an offset is required. Further, when planning an offset, it is important to consider the requirements of all levels of government from whom you need an approval. Finally, while a financial settlement contribution offset may be convenient, it may be more cost effective to design your own offset package.

Please don’t hesitate to give me call should you want further information.

Nelson Wills (07 5575 7308).