New or expanded cropping

What are the requirements for new cropping and horticulture?

From 1 June 2021, new or expanded commercial cropping and horticulture activities in the Cape York, Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions on five hectares or more that do not meet the cropping history test will require an environmental authority (permit) before the activity or any work takes place.

The requirements for new or expanded cropping or horticulture activities (known as ERA 13A) aim to achieve ‘no net decline’ in water quality by preventing and minimising nutrient and sediment run-off.

A cropping history is when cropping or horticulture activities have occurred during three out of the last 10 years (with at least one of the years being in the last five years). The cropping history test includes all types of crops including non-commercial, rotational, changing from one crop to another, sequencing or break crops and fodder crops.

Crops that are grown in a closed system (e.g. hydroponically), forestry and non-commercial crops are not captured by the new requirements. An example of a non-commercial crop is where fodder crops are grown by graziers for their own cattle and are not sold to other producers.

Recently started new cropping or horticulture activities (including preparatory work) that began before 1 June 2021 on land that does not yet meet the cropping history test will have five years to meet the test. However, an environmental authority will be required for future cropping or horticulture activities if the cropping history test does not continue to be met.

New or expanded cropping or horticulture activities over 100 hectares will need to make a site-specific application to the department to determine any tailored conditions to manage water quality risks for the newly cropped area.

Banana growers who are relocating due to TR4 Panama disease on land for which a Notice has been issued under the Biosecurity Act 2014 will only need to submit a standard or variation application, regardless of the size of the new cropping activity.

The requirements apply to all types of crops including grains and horticulture, sugarcane and banana production.

The newly cropped land will also need to meet minimum practice agricultural standards where these apply to the crop(s) being grown.

Producers will be able to apply for an environmental authority by contacting the Permits and Licensing Management area within the Department of Environment and Science.

What are the standard conditions?

The standard conditions relate to the way the land (or features of the land) are designed, implemented and maintained. They include soil and erosion control measures and irrigation requirements.

The standard conditions are outlined in the draft ERA 13A standard for commercial cropping and horticulture (PDF, 395 KB) . In response to feedback already received, the draft standard conditions have changed since first being released for consultation in February 2020.


The introduction of the new requirements and consultation was postponed earlier in 2020 due to COVID-19 to ensure the agricultural community and industry had a full opportunity to provide feedback and a suitable amount of time to prepare for the changes.

Public consultation on the draft standard conditions will close on 17 February 2021. You can provide comment via email or post:


Reef protection regulations


Reef protection regulations
Office of the Great Barrier Reef
Department of Environment and Science
GPO Box 2454
Brisbane QLD 4001

For more information, email or call 13 QGOV (13 74 68) and ask for the Office of the Great Barrier Reef.

What are the minimum practice agricultural standards?

Producers undertaking new cropping or horticulture activities are also required to meet minimum practice agricultural standards where these are prescribed by regulation. Currently such standards are only in place for cropping for sugarcane or bananas.

You can view the standards that apply for sugarcane, grazing and bananas.

Do I need an environmental authority to start grazing?

New grazing activity does not require an environmental authority.

However, where minimum practice agricultural standards are in place for grazing they must be followed.

Who do I contact about obtaining an environmental authority?

For further information about environmental authorities, please contact:

Department of Environment and Science
Permits and Licensing Management area
Telephone: 13 QGOV (13 74 68)