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Clearing of protected plants

Protected plants can be difficult to find and identify, like this Commersonia pearnii, which was only recently described in 2005. It has extremely limited distribution, and occurs in open-forest growing to a metre in height.

Protecting Queensland’s native plants

The Nature Conservation Act 1992 regulates the clearing of native plants in Queensland to protect our endangered, vulnerable and near threatened plants for current and future generations.

The clearing requirements are contained in Chapter 4 of the Nature Conservation (Wildlife Management) Regulation 2006.

Endangered, vulnerable or near threatened plants are listed in the Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 2006.

What native plants can I clear?

Clearing means taking (e.g. removing or destroying) plants from where they are growing.

If you want to clear native plants that are not ‘in the wild’ (e.g. they are in a garden), the clearing requirements under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 do not apply. Read the operational policy (PDF, 196KB) for more information to help you work out whether a native plant is ‘in the wild’.

If you want to clear native plants ‘in the wild’ (e.g. in bushland), you need to work out what clearing requirements under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 you need to comply with. The requirements may include obtaining a flora survey and/or a protected plant clearing permit, and will apply even if an area is Category X under the Vegetation Management Act 1999. The below information will help you to assess what clearing requirements apply in your circumstance and to apply for a permit if one is required.

Find out more about clearing requirements under the Vegetation Management Act 1999.

What clearing can be undertaken without a flora survey or permit?

Many activities are ‘exempt’, which means that clearing of native plants that are ‘in the wild’ can be undertaken for these activities with no need for a flora survey or a protected plant clearing permit, or to notify the department. These general exemptions include:

  • use of native plants for authorised grazing
  • clearing to avoid or reduce risk of death, injury or serious damage to buildings or property
  • clearing for firebreaks
  • clearing to manage encroachment or manage weeds in accordance with a vegetation clearing code under the Vegetation Management Act 1999
  • clearing for routine maintenance of infrastructure (such as buildings, roads, stockyards, fences and vehicular tracks)
  • re-clearing (for up to 10 years) of an area that was lawfully cleared under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

The General Exemptions Information Sheet (PDF, 216KB) will help you work out whether a general exemption applies to your proposed clearing.

An exemption also applies for clearing outside of a high risk area on the flora survey trigger map. Note: if you are aware, or become aware, of any endangered, vulnerable or near threatened plants you cannot clear the plants or within 100m of the plants unless you obtain a protected plant clearing permit.

The flora survey trigger map identifies high-risk areas for endangered, vulnerable or near threatened plants.  That means one of these plants has been found in the area or that it contains habitat that is highly likely to have one or more endangered plants.

When clearing outside a high risk area, you need to keep a copy of the flora survey trigger map for five years from the day the clearing starts and you must clear within 12 months of obtaining the copy of the map. These requirements are different for projects that need an environmental impact statement—see section 261Z of the Nature Conservation (Wildlife Management) Regulation 2006.

What if the plants I want to clear are within a mapped high risk area?

If the native plants you propose to clear are ‘in the wild’ and none of the above exemptions apply, you need to get a suitably qualified person to undertake a flora survey of the clearing impact area and to prepare a flora survey report. A suitably qualified person is typically an ecological or botanist who meets the qualifications, experience and skills set out in the flora survey guideline (PDF, 536KB).

The flora survey needs to be consistent with the flora survey guideline (PDF, 536KB) and must look for all endangered, vulnerable or near threatened plants that may occur in the clearing impact area. The clearing impact area is the area to be cleared and, typically, a 100m buffer around that area.

The results of the flora survey will determine if a clearing permit is required.

How do I find a suitably qualified person to undertake a flora survey?

In accordance with the flora survey guidelines (PDF, 536KB), a flora survey must be coordinated and led by a suitably qualified person. A suitably qualified person may refer to themselves as a botanist, ecologist, or environmental scientist.

There are several ways you may find a botanist, ecologist, or environmental scientist, including via searching online or the directory of Certified Environmental Practitioners . Your local council may be able to assist by providing the details of people who operate in the area.

The rates charged would normally be comparable to the rates charged by a surveyor. If in doubt, obtain multiple quotes.

What if a flora survey shows no endangered, vulnerable or near threatened plants will be impacted?

If a flora survey report shows that no endangered, vulnerable or near threatened plants are in the clearing impact area, you do not need a permit to clear plants.

However, you must submit the flora survey report and an exempt clearing notification via Connect at least one week before you start clearing and no later than 12 months after the flora survey was completed.

Clearing needs to be undertaken within two years of submitting the flora survey report.

What if a flora survey shows at least one endangered, vulnerable or near threatened plant will be impacted?

If a flora survey report shows that any endangered, vulnerable or near threatened plants are in the clearing impact area, you must obtain a protected plant clearing permit before clearing.

How do I obtain a protected plant clearing permit?

You need to apply for a protected plant clearing permit, including paying the relevant fee and providing the necessary supporting material. Please apply via Connect.

Please note that concessional fees are available where clearing relates to certain activities (e.g. educational or scientific research, establishing necessary fences, firebreaks, roads, etc). For more information see section 157 of the Nature Conservation (Administration) Regulation 2017.

All protected plant clearing permit applications will be assessed in accordance with the protected plants assessment guidelines (PDF, 205KB).

For general advice on applying for permits and licences please contact the department’s permits and licencing team on 1300 130 372 (option 4) or palm@des.qld.gov.au. To meet with a departmental officer prior to applying for a permit, please complete the pre-design conference application form (Word, 184K) and submit to palm@des.qld.gov.au.

Connect

Through the department’s online licensing system, Connect, you can:

  • store your contact, address and business information online to make future applications faster
  • complete applications and instantly submit online
  • avoid time-consuming requests for further information from the department that require resubmission of your applications
  • make online payments via credit card.

Register with Connect.

Important notes on using Connect

Applications will still be accepted outside the department’s online licensing system however, paper-based applications will not have the benefits associated with Connect. Please see below for “More information on applications and notifications”.

Licences or exemptions from before Connect commenced will not be available in Connect. Only new applications processed under Connect will be available.

Clearing permits and environmental offsets

Under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 an offset may be required as a condition of your permit approval to compensate for unavoidable impacts on a protected plant species in the wild. An offset includes works or activities undertaken to counterbalance the ‘significant residual impacts’ of a clearing activity on a plant that is endangered or vulnerable wildlife.

On 1 July 2014, a streamlined environmental offsets framework was introduced in Queensland. For more information, visit the Environmental Offsets area of the Queensland Government website. The Environmental Offsets Act 2014 (the Offsets Act) outlines the framework for environmental offsets and how they should be provided. An offset conditioned under a clearing permit must be in accordance with the Offsets Act.

More information on offsets:

Industry-specific information

Please see the following links for industry specific information:

Electricity, mining, petroleum, and gas sectors

Clearing that was exempt under the previous protected plants framework (prior to 2014) for electricity easements and leases authorised under the Mineral Resources Act 1989, Petroleum Act 1923 and Electricity Act 1994 remains exempt. Clearing post-2014 may be subject to the protected plant clearing laws.

More information on conducting a flora survey

More information on applications and notifications