Clarification of Exemptions for Vegetation Clearing for Bushfire Management Activities

7 February 2020
Stafford Hopewell, Partner, Brisbane

The previous arrangement surrounding clearing vegetation for bushfire management activities was confusing.  The Planning (Spit Master Plan and Other Matters) Amendment Regulation 2019 (Qld) which commenced on 6 December 2019, is an attempt to clear up some of this confusion as to the exemptions for vegetation clearing for bushfire management activities.

 

The amendment

A new section 20A has been inserted into Schedule 6 Part 3, and a new section 13 in Schedule 7 of the Planning Regulation 2017 (Qld) (Planning Regulation).

Schedule 6 of the Planning Regulation sets out development that a local categorising instrument, which includes a local government planning scheme, is prohibited from stating is assessable development (requiring development approval).

New section 20A of Schedule 6 of the Planning Regulation sets out the following exemptions in respect of operational work for necessary firebreaks or fire management lines:

Operational work that is clearing native vegetation if—

(a) the clearing is necessary for—

(i) establishing or maintaining a necessary firebreak to protect infrastructure, other than a fence, road or vehicular track, and the maximum width of the firebreak is equal to 1.5 times the height of the tallest vegetation next to the infrastructure, or 20m, whichever is the wider; or

(ii) establishing a necessary fire management line, and the maximum width of the clearing for the fire management line is 10m; and

(b) the clearing—

(i) is on freehold land; or

(ii) is on indigenous land; or

(iii) is on land leased under the Land Act 1994 for agriculture or grazing purposes; or

(iv) is on land leased under the Land Act 1994, other than for agriculture or grazing purposes, and is consistent with the purpose of the lease; or

(v) is on trust land under the Land Act 1994, other than indigenous land, is carried out, or allowed to be carried out, by the trustee and is consistent with achieving the purpose of the trust; or

(vi) is on unallocated State land and is carried out, or allowed to be carried out, by the chief executive of the department in which the Land Act 1994 is administered; or

(vii) is on land that is subject to a licence or permit under the Land Act 1994 and is carried out by the licensee or permittee.

A firebreak and fire management line are described respectively as:[1]

  • Firebreaks are low-fuel areas located immediately adjacent to existing infrastructure (including a building, or other structure, built or used for any purpose) that are cleared and maintained to slow or stop the progress of a fire, or to perform back-burning.
  • Fire management lines are roads, fence line clearings or tracks (including existing property tracks) used to access water for firefighting or divide the property for fuel reduction burning or back-burning.

The changes have provided clarity that any clearing of vegetation that fits into the above categories set out in section 20A of Schedule 6 of the Planning Regulation is accepted development and does not require a development approval.

If a landholder needs to clear a wider area than is permitted under the exemptions in the Planning Regulation, clearing may be undertaken under a vegetation clearing code such as the ‘Clearing for Infrastructure Accepted Development Vegetation Clearing Code’.

If either the exemptions under the Planning Regulation or a vegetation clearing code are not applicable, development approval for the clearing may be required.  Special exemptions are available if a landholder is clearing during an emergency.

 

Conclusion 

In light of the recent bushfires around Australia, planning for effective bushfire management activities could not be any more important.  It is critical that landholders looking to clear land to manage and minimise the risk of bushfire hazards can do so in a manner which is easily understood and free of any red tape getting in the way.

 

 


Authored by:

Stafford Hopewell, Partner
Sarah Day, Associate

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

Get in touch