New native vegetation portal to help get the balance right

Date posted: 08 November 2017

Applications to clear native vegetation are now digital, simpler and quicker through a range of reforms introduced earlier this year.

The changes include a new online application and decision-making portal, allowing users to self-assess whether an application is required. Users will be able to visually map and submit their proposed clearances online, helping speed up the approvals process. Where an activity requires notification, users will be able to submit this directly via the portal.

The new regulations will also create South Australia’s first environmental credit and trade market, offering more options for landholders needing environmental offsets.

Presiding Member Native Vegetation Council, Emily Jenke said the changes aim to strike the right balance between protecting valuable native vegetation while helping landholders go about their everyday activities on their land.

“From creating shelter for stock and improving soil stability and nutrition, to providing a home for our native animals and cooling our urban areas, our native vegetation is integral to the wellbeing of all South Australians,” Ms Jenke said.

“This initiative will provide the ability for landholders to establish a credit ‘bank’ for others to access. This will provide new income to help manage and improve their native vegetation.”

To support the rollout of the changes, an additional 500 people across industry and government have been trained in providing advice and assessing the quality of native vegetation.

This system is a result of a package of reforms undertaken by the Native Vegetation Council under the Native Vegetation Regulations 2017, and changes have been informed by targeted stakeholder consultation.

“In some agricultural areas of the State, less than 30% of our native vegetation remains, making it even more critical for us to continue to protect the habitats of our native animals and plants,” Ms Jenke said.

“Currently, in our agricultural districts, close to one million hectares of native vegetation are protected through native vegetation heritage agreements, and more than 1.7 million hectares through national parks, ensuring that these places will be around for future generations to enjoy.”

For more information on the changes to regulations, visit http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/managing-natural-resources/native-vegetation.

Landholders with specific native vegetation queries are encouraged to visit their local Natural Resources Centre.

Background and further information

Native vegetation includes plants of a species indigenous to South Australia, including those growing under sea waters. In most parts of South Australia (except parts of metropolitan Adelaide) it is protected by the Native Vegetation Act 1991.

Landholders who wish to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation in South Australia for a range of reasons, including building structures or clearing for fire prevention, may be required to get approval under the Native Vegetation Regulations 2017.

A formal scheme for environmental credits is now available for landholders who have achieved an environmental benefit over and above the value of the minimum benefit needed to offset the loss of the cleared vegetation; or for landholders wanting to trade their environmental credit with someone requiring an offset.

South Australia’s native vegetation – from ground covers and native grasses to towering red gums and the seaweed on our coasts – is vital to the health of South Australia’s environment, wellbeing and prosperity. Native vegetation helps protect the state’s land and water against problems like erosion, salinity and climate change, provides essential habitat for native animal species, improves agricultural productivity and allows everyone to experience the state’s unique natural beauty.

The changes – in short

  • Digital – applications and notifications will now be made online, resulting in faster approvals. Users can map their clearances online.
  • Self-assessment – users can more easily self-assess whether an application or notification is required
  • Introduction of the first third party and credit market for environmental offsetting in South Australia
  • More trained experts from industry and across government.

Assessment and approval pathways

The new regulations contain four assessment and approval pathways for permitted clearances:

  1. Self-assessment – no approval required. This will apply to activities such as clearing for vehicle tracks, walking tracks, and regrowth less than five years old.
  2. Fire hazard reduction activities where Country Fire Service (CFS) approval is required. This could apply to activities such as clearing for fire protection for existing dwellings, for fuel reduction and for fuel breaks.
  3. Vegetation management activities, where a Native Vegetation Council-approved management plan is required. For example, clearing to manage roadside vegetation, to maintain existing agriculture and to change a grazing regime. 
  4. Major developments, mining and petroleum, and specified activities, where a risk assessment (approved by the Native Vegetation Council) will determine the significant environmental benefit offset required. For example, clearing for infrastructure, buildings, houses, residential subdivisions, dams and recreation tracks.