Harvesting protected plants
Queensland’s native plants legislation provides a simple and effective framework that allows the Queensland Government to focus on addressing the impacts of high-risk activities on the conservation of Queensland’s native plants (e.g. harvesting of threatened plant species) while streamlining the regulation of low risk and sustainable activities that pose a minimal threat to protected plants.
The framework contributes to the government’s red tape reduction initiative and has the potential to create new opportunities for the native plant trade industry.
The protected plants harvesting legislation
Only one licence (a protected plant harvesting licence ) is required to harvest, keep and trade in protected plants. However, a licensed harvester will need a protected plant growing licence if they intend to grow (e.g. propagate) protected plants from harvested plant parts.
Focus on protecting those species at risk
The protected plants regulatory framework focuses on protecting those species that face real risks. In the case of native plant harvesting, this means regulating activities affecting native plants that are:
- threatened species (i.e. those native plants listed as critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable) and near threatened species under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (the Act).
- special least concern species (i.e. least concern plant species subject to harvesting pressure because of their commercial value or their special characteristics (e.g. being slow growing or slow to reproduce). Special least concern plants are listed in schedule 2 of the Nature Conservation (Plants) Regulation 2020 (the Regulations).
All other least concern plants are exempt from requiring a licence for the harvesting of whole plants or plant parts. This has removed the licensing requirements for thousands of plant species.
Focus on sustainability
Harvesting of threatened and near threatened species and special least concern species is allowed where it can be demonstrated to be sustainable. To do this, a harvester must operate under a sustainable harvest plan. These plans must demonstrate the long-term sustainability of any harvesting.
Salvaging allows for people to harvest, use and trade threatened, near threatened or special least concern plants that would otherwise be destroyed by lawful clearing.
Anyone with a harvesting licence, and acting with the permission of the property owner, can rescue/salvage whole plants or plant parts for replanting, private use or trade that are approved to be cleared under the clearing permit (subject to the requirements of the clearing permit).
Where plants are being cleared as part of maintenance clearing (e.g. around infrastructure, or to establish a firebreak), plant parts may be salvaged without a harvesting licence.
With the harvesting of protected plants largely deregulated, plant harvesters and recreational and commercial growers can explore new opportunities to grow and trade native plants that used to be restricted. This has the potential to trigger a greater use of native plants in gardening and landscaping and foster a greater appreciation of Queensland’s plant biodiversity.
Harvesting and conservation
Specific allowance has been made for the harvesting and growing of certain species of native plants where it will benefit the conservation of native animals that rely on them for food.
The Richmond birdwing butterfly vine Pararistolochia praevenosa is the main larval host plant of the vulnerable Richmond birdwing butterfly. By complying with the simple record keeping, labelling and tagging requirements, the vine’s seeds can be harvested, grown and traded to reintroduce this vine into areas once inhabited by the Richmond birdwing butterfly. Similar opportunities exist for other threatened species of native animal that have been impacted by the clearing of the specific food plants they need for their survival.
Quantities of plant parts that can be taken without a licence
Protected plant parts, other than parts from critically and endangered plants, can be taken without a licence in particular circumstances where the parts taken do not exceed the quantities listed in the Code of Practice For the take and use of protected plants under an exemption .
If you are taking plant parts, you must have the approval of the landholder of the land where the plants are taken from. Seed or propagative material of cycads taken under this exemption cannot be used for trade unless they are used by a recreational plant society for particular purposes. This exemption does not allow a person to take parts of a sandalwood plant from the wild, unless the parts are leaves or twigs. For further information on this exemption see section 40 of the Regulations. For the specific quantities of plant parts that can be taken without a licence, see the code of practice.
Restrictions on the harvest of sandalwood
Sandalwood is listed as a special least concern plant under the Regulations, due to the commercial harvesting pressure on the species. A protected plant harvesting licence is required for any activity that involves the harvest of whole sandalwood plants. For the exempt harvesting of sandalwood plants, only twigs and branches can be taken under the exemption as taking the trunk or main stem of the plant is considered to be taking the whole plant.
Protected plant harvesting licence
You need a protected plant harvesting licence to harvest whole restricted plants from the wild, or to harvest restricted plant parts from the wild in excess of the limits set in the Code of Practice For the take and use of protected plants under an exemption .
Whole restricted plants or restricted plant parts may be harvested under this licence for any use or purpose. You will only be granted this licence if the proposed harvest activity is sustainable. You must submit a sustainable harvest plan with an application for a protected plant harvesting licence.
When a protected plant harvesting licence is granted, harvesting of whole plants or plant parts must comply with the Code of practice for the harvest and use of protected plants . The code specifies how the harvesting is carried out and how protected plant harvest records and protected plant harvest labels are to be kept and used. Additional requirements apply for the trade of restricted plants taken under a harvesting licence.
What is a restricted plant?
All plants that are native to Queensland are protected under the Act.
Under the Regulations, restrictions exist on the harvest or use of protected plants that are classified as 'restricted plants'. Restricted plants include plants that are listed under the Regulations as critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable or near threatened plants, and plants listed as special least concern under schedule 2.
What is a special least concern plant?
This is a category of protected plants that includes those species that are likely to be subject to increased harvesting pressure due to their commercial and recreational demand, and the nature of their growth and reproduction (e.g. small or slow growing species, species that produce limited seed). A full list of special least concern plants can be found in Schedule 2 of the Regulations.
Applying for a protected plant harvesting licence
To apply for a protected plant harvesting licence you need to submit an application form for a protected plant harvesting licence .
All applications for a protected plant harvesting licence must comply with the Protected plants assessment guidelines .
Record keeping and labelling requirements
Protected plant harvest record
A protected plant harvest record must be created and kept by the person or entity when harvesting whole restricted plants or restricted plant parts harvested under a licence or exemption.
The harvest record must:
- include the information required in the Code of practice for the harvest and use of protected plants under an authority or the Code of Practice For the take and use of protected plants under an exemption .
- be kept in a written or electronic record system. This is to ensure a person or entity undertaking a harvest can maintain specific details of the harvest for compliance purposes, while also demonstrating the plant or plant part was lawfully harvested from the wild.
Protected plant harvest labels
The purpose of a protected plant harvest label is to identify the specific details of the lawful harvest of a plant or plant part from the wild, while ensuring this information is visible for trade purposes.
The protected plant harvest label is created by the person or entity undertaking the harvest and must:
- be attached, at the time of harvest, to a whole restricted plant or restricted plant part when the plant or plant part is harvested from the wild, under a protected plant licence or exemption
- include the information stated in the either the Code of Practice For the harvest and use of protected plants under an authority or the Code of Practice For the take and use of protected plants under an exemption
- remain with the plant until a protected plant trade label is attached or the plant starts being used for personal use.
Protected plant official tags
An official tag is supplied by the department to attach to a whole restricted plant used for trade, to show that a whole plant has lawfully been taken from the wild. The tag includes a reference number that links to a protected plant licence.
Official tags may be supplied by the department when a protected plant licence is granted. Alternatively, a person with a protected plant harvesting licence may apply to receive official tags, for example when obtaining restricted plants through a salvage activity.
An official tag must be attached to a restricted plant before it is moved, or as soon as an official tag is received. An official tag must remain attached to the restricted plant until the plant is used for personal use.