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Clearing protected plants and the agriculture and primary industry sector

Frequently asked questions by rural producers

This page answers some common questions that rural producers ask about the requirements and processes for clearing native vegetation (including Category X vegetation) under the protected plants legislative framework:

What is the protected plants legislative framework?

The Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld) and Nature Conservation (Wildlife Management) Regulation 2006, in conjunction with associated maps and guidelines, form the protected plants legislative framework. This framework adopts a risk-based approach to regulating the taking (which includes clearing), keeping, use and movement of protected plants in Queensland in order to ensure the survival of protected plants in the wild, particularly endangered, vulnerable and near threatened species.

The protected plants legislative framework is in addition to the vegetation management framework under the Vegetation Management Act 1999 and its requirements for managing and clearing native vegetation, which many rural producers are familiar with.

What are protected plants?

In Queensland, all native plants are protected plants under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. This includes plants that are prescribed as threatened, near threatened or least concern wildlife.

Can I clear vegetation on my freehold land that is mapped as Category X on a Regulated Vegetation Management Map?

While clearing in an area mapped as category X on the Regulated Vegetation Management Map is exempt from the requirements of the Vegetation Management Act 1999, these areas are still subject to the requirements of the protected plants legislative framework under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. As such, prior to clearing you may need to have a flora survey conducted over the area and/or obtain a protected plant clearing permit to comply with the requirements of the protected plants legislative framework.

How do I determine what requirements of the protected plants legislative framework apply to my proposed clearing?

Prior to clearing you must check the flora survey trigger map to determine if any part of the area to be cleared is within a high risk area, or determine if the clearing is covered by an exemption (exemptions are detailed under part 3, division 5, subdivision 3 of the Nature Conservation (Wildlife Management) Regulation 2006).

If an exemption does not apply and the area to be cleared is shown as blue (i.e. high risk) on the flora survey trigger map, a flora survey must be undertaken in accordance with the flora survey guidelines (PDF, 536K). This requirement applies even if the clearing is exempt under the vegetation management framework (for instance, in category X areas or under the single residence exemption).  

Where the flora survey does not identify any endangered, vulnerable and near threatened plants in the clearing impact area, clearing can proceed without a permit as long as an exempt clearing notification (Word, 207K) is submitted along with a copy of the flora survey report.  

Where the flora survey identifies endangered, vulnerable and near threatened plants within the clearing impact area, the clearing will require a protected plants clearing permit. An application form clearing permit (Word, 275K) (including an impact management report) must be submitted to the department.

If the entire area to be cleared is shown as white (i.e. not high risk) on the flora survey trigger map, a permit under the protected plants legislative framework is not required, except if you are already aware, that endangered, vulnerable and near threatened plants are present within the area to be cleared or clearing would be within 100m of the plants.

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. You must keep a copy of the flora survey trigger map for the area subject to clearing for five years from the day the clearing starts.

The requirements of the protected plants framework only apply to plants that are in the wild (PDF, 196K). For example, plants propagated and established in a landscaped area are not considered to be in the wild.

What exemptions exist?

There are circumstances where protected plants can be cleared, regardless of how the area is shown on the flora survey trigger map. Chapter 4, Part 3 of the Nature Conservation (Wildlife Management) Regulation 2006 sets out the exemptions.

The exemptions of most relevance to the primary industry and agriculture sector are:

  • where the clearing complies with a self-assessable vegetation clearing codes for thinning, managing weeds or managing encroachment (s261ZE)
  • a range of maintenance activities, including routine maintenance of existing infrastructure like roads, fences and buildings, or a plantation management activity or cropping activity where the land was previously lawfully cleared (s261ZC)
  • establishing or maintaining a firebreak or fire management line (s261ZD)
  • clearing to reduce or avoid an imminent risk of serious injury or death to a person (s261A) or damage to buildings or property (s261B)
  • re-clearing within 10 years where the initial clearing was legally conducted under a permit, or following a flora survey (s261ZB).

How do the exemptions under the protected plants legislative framework relate to the exemptions under the vegetation management framework?

While an exemption under the Vegetation Management Act 1999 does not provide an exemption under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and vice-versa, some exemptions are the same. For example, exemptions for firebreaks and fire management lines are the same, and where the clearing complies with a self-assessable vegetation clearing code for thinning, managing weeds or managing encroachment (s261ZE), the clearing is exempt from requiring a permit under the protected plants legislative framework.

An area management plan under the Vegetation Management Act 1999 has no bearing on the requirements for a protected plants clearing permit under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

What is the clearing impact area?

The clearing impact area is the area to be cleared that is within a high risk area and a buffer zone that is an additional area of 100m in width around the boundary of the area to be cleared. A buffer zone may be less than 100m if authorised by the chief executive. For more information about reducing the buffer zone, see the flora survey guidelines (PDF, 536K).

What are the requirements for a flora survey?

The flora survey guidelines (PDF, 536K) set out the requirements for how a flora survey is to be conducted, including who may undertake a survey, the extent of the area to be surveyed, the flora survey method and what the flora survey report must contain.

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

In accordance with the flora survey guidelines (PDF, 536K), a flora survey must be co-ordinated 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, ecological 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.

How much does it cost to get a clearing permit?

There is a fee payable to the department 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).

How long do I have to clear once I have a clearing permit?

Clearing authorised by a permit must be undertaken before the permit expires. A clearing permit remains current for a maximum of two years.

Last updated
20 February 2017