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Protected plants

The legislative framework

The legislation protecting Queensland’s native plants 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. clearing of threatened native plant species) while streamlining and simplifying the regulation of low risk and sustainable activities that pose a minimal risk to protected plants.

In Queensland, all plants that are native to Australia are protected plants under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 to prevent whole plants or protected plant parts from being illegally removed from the wild or illegally traded. Clearing, growing, harvesting and trading of protected plants in Queensland is regulated by the Nature Conservation (Wildlife Management) Regulation 2006.

Proposed clearing of protected plants

The protected plants framework applies only to plants that are in the wild, and does not apply if there is a relevant exemption under the Nature Conservation (Wildlife Management) Regulation 2006.

Proposed clearing in a high risk area

If a proposed area to be cleared contains native plants in the wild, and there is no relevant exemption, and the area is shown as blue (i.e high risk) on the flora survey trigger map, a flora survey of the clearing impact area must be undertaken prior to any potential clearing. This is irrespective of the classification of the vegetation under the Vegetation Management Act (PDF). The flora survey must comply with all requirements of the flora survey guidelines (PDF, 536K).

The flora survey guidelines (PDF, 536K) outline how a flora survey must be conducted to comply with the protected plants legislative framework, including sections detailing:

  • Who is suitably qualified to undertake a flora survey;
  • The extent of the area that must be surveyed;
  • What flora survey methods must be used; and
  • What must be included in a flora survey report.

Whilst most flora surveys are able to fully comply with the flora survey guidelines (PDF, 536K), variations from the flora survey guideline may sometimes be appropriate. In such circumstances, an applicant can complete the Request form: Variation from the flora survey guidelines (Word, 192K)*. For information on the process used to consider a request for a variation from the flora survey guideline, see Guideline: Request for variation from the flora survey guidelines (PDF, 230K)

Exempt clearing notification

If the flora survey does not detect any Endangered, Vulnerable or Near Threatened (EVNT) plants in the clearing impact area or the impacts on EVNT plants can be avoided (i.e. clearing will not take place within 100m of the EVNT plants), a clearing permit is not required but an exempt clearing notification must be submitted to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection within one year of the survey being undertaken and at least one week prior to the clearing commencing.

Clearing that has complied with process will not be subject to any further survey or approval requirements once clearing commences. You can then carry out re-clearing or routine maintenance for up to 10 years after the original authorised clearing.

How to apply

Through the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection’s (EHP’s) online licensing system, Connect, you can:

  • update and manage your contact, address and business information online
  • complete applications and instantly submit online
  • make online payments via credit card
  • have access to online lodgement of annual returns.

To apply for any exempt clearing notification, please register with Connect.

Applications will still be accepted outside EHP’s online licensing system (please complete the Exempt clearing notification (protected plants) form (Word, 191K)*). However, paper-based applications will not have the benefits associated with Connect and incomplete information will be returned to you for review and resubmission.

Important notes using Connect

If you currently hold an exempt clearing notification granted under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 before Connect commenced, your existing licence information will not be available in Connect, either immediately or in the future. Only new applications processed under Connect will be available.

Clearing permit

If the flora survey identifies the presence of EVNT plants in the clearing impact area, a clearing permit is required before any potential clearing. The flora survey report, as well as an impact management report, will need to be included with the application form clearing permit (Word, 237K)*.

A clearing permit authorises the clearing of an area of land rather than the individual species of plant present. Clearing that has complied with a permit will not be subject to any further survey or approval requirements once clearing commences.

You can then carry out re-clearing or routine maintenance for up to 10 years after the original authorised clearing.

There is a fee for a clearing permit, which has been calculated to allow partial recovery of the costs involved in administering permit assessment and compliance. Concessional fees are available where the clearing relates to certain activities (e.g. educational or scientific research purposes).

The clearing permit application will be assessed in accordance with the Protected plants assessment guidelines (PDF, 205K)

Proposed clearing outside a high risk area

If your proposed area of clearing is white (i.e. not high risk) on the flora survey trigger map, and you are not aware of any EVNT plants in the area, no approval is required under the Nature Conservation Act. However, you must retain a copy of the flora survey trigger map for five years from the day the clearing starts. If you do not clear within the 12 month period that the flora survey trigger map was printed, you need to print, and check, a new flora survey trigger map. If—before clearing starts—you become aware that EVNT plants are present, a protected plant clearing permit is required to clear the plants. An EVNT plant in the wild cannot knowingly be cleared or impacted without a clearing permit.

Clearing permits and environmental offsets

Under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 an offset condition may be required for the clearing activity to ensure the viability of one or more taxa of protected plant species in the wild. An offset includes works or activities undertaken to counterbalance the 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.

Further information relating to offsets for clearing protected plants:

More information on clearing protected plants

Further industry-specific information for clearing protected plants:

Harvesting and growing

Plant harvesters and recreational and commercial growers can harvest, grow and trade many of Queensland’s native plants without a licence. The Nature Conservation (Wildlife Management) Regulation 2006 also allows harvesting of endangered, vulnerable and near threatened species and special least concern species (collectively referred to as ‘restricted plants’) where it can be demonstrated to be sustainable.

The protected plants regulatory framework applies only to harvesting (or collecting) protected plants, not to harvesting commercial timber or plants which are not protected.

What is a restricted plant?

All plants that are native to Queensland are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. Under the Nature Conservation (Wildlife Management) Regulation 2006, 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 Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 2006 as endangered, vulnerable or near threatened plants, and plants listed as special least concern.

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 3A of the Nature Conservation (Wildlife Management) Regulation 2006.

When a licence is needed

You may need a protected plant licence to harvest protected plants in the wild. When applying for a protected plant licence, you must be able to prove that the proposed harvest is ecologically sustainable.

You need a Protected plant harvesting licence (Word, 265K)* for the sustainable harvest of restricted whole plants and plant parts.

You need a Protected plant growing licence (Word, 244K)* for the sustainable harvest of restricted whole plants and plant parts specifically for propagation and cultivation purposes.

You must submit a sustainable harvest plan with an application for a protected plant harvesting licence. You may need to submit a sustainable harvest plan for a protected plant growing licence. The sustainable harvest plan must meet the requirements of the Protected plants assessment guidelines (PDF, 205K) and demonstrate that the harvest of restricted plants from the wild is sustainable.

If you are granted a licence, you must:

  • comply with the applicable sustainable harvest plan
  • keep protected plant harvest records
  • attach protected plant harvest labels to any restricted plants or plant parts harvested.

Further information on harvesting and growing protected plants:

Code of practice

All harvesting—whether or not a licence is required—must comply with the Code of practice for the harvest and use of protected plants, except in the circumstances specified under the Nature Conservation (Wildlife Management) Regulation 2006.

The code provides standards for people involved in harvesting, keeping and using protected plants in Queensland.

The code also lists quantities of restricted plant parts (other than endangered plants) that may be taken without a licence.

Trade

Trade in protected plants is not licensed. It is regulated through the Code of practice for the harvest and use of protected plants. Under this code, if you are involved in the trade of native plants you must demonstrate that the plants are sourced and traded legitimately. This is done through self-regulated record keeping supported by a system of trade labels and official plant tags and allows protected plants to be tracked through the harvesting and trade process from source to point of sale.

You need to keep a protected plant trade record if you:

  • use or move a restricted plant for trade
  • harvest a restricted plant under an exemption or a protected plant licence for use in trade.

The protected plant trade record must comply with the code of practice and must be kept in a written or electronic record system.

You must attach a protected plant trade label to a restricted plant or plant part used or moved for trade, or propagated or cultivated for trade. The label must include the information stated in the code of practice and must be attached to the restricted plant (or attached as close as possible to a whole plant), bundle of plant parts or container of plant parts.          

An official tag supplied by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection must also be attached to a whole restricted plant harvested from the wild, to demonstrate lawful harvest of the plant. The official tag must remain with the plant during trade.

Assessment guidelines

The Protected plants assessment guidelines (PDF, 205K) will guide you through the application requirements for a protected plant licence or permit. These guidelines provide clear and transparent guidance about considering an application under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 for a protected plant authority. Applications are required to take protected plants in the course of clearing, growing and harvesting activities in Queensland.

Landholder flora survey access approval tool

The Landholder access approval tool (Word, 195K)* is a non-compulsory tool designed to help clients summarize landholder access approvals when undertaking flora surveys under the Protected Plant Framework, Nature Conservation Act, 1992. When signed, this tool can also be used as a proof of access (so long as all original landholder approval documents are retained and can be provided upon request).

When is a protected plant 'in the wild'?

In Queensland, all plants that are native to Australia are regarded as ‘protected plants’ under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (the Act). The Act regulates the taking, keeping and use of protected plants (whole plants and plant parts) ‘in the wild’.

Under the Act, a protected plant clearing permit, growing licence or harvesting licence may be required to take a protected plant that is ‘in the wild’—defined in the Act as ‘in an independent state of natural liberty’. If a native plant does not fall within this definition, an authority or permission is not required under the Act for the taking of that plant.

A number of factors may contribute to determining whether a protected plant is ‘in the wild’. For guidance, please refer to the operational policy (PDF, 196K).

* Requires Microsoft Office files viewer

Last updated
1 September 2017