Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (30 July) . . Page.. 3034..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
The bill that I have presented today commits the ACT to turning around its deplorable record on land clearing by making sure that it does not lose any more habitat for native species over the longer term. This bill introduces a general prohibition on the clearing of native vegetation unless there is a commitment to replanting or rehabilitating an alternative area. The bill mirrors law already in practice in Victoria, where the Bracks government has made a commitment to there being no net loss of native vegetation.
This bill does not outlaw the clearing of native vegetation, but before landholders can undertake clearing they must undertake to revegetate another area or promise to rehabilitate the degraded area of native vegetation so that that habitat is restored. These undertakings will be recorded in a vegetation management plan that must be approved by the Conservator of Flora and Fauna to have effect. The approval must be publicly notified and, in itself, is a notifiable instrument. If the landholders fail to replant or rehabilitate an area of equal value, they can be fined. They will have to repay the cost of doing the work that was failed to be done. So there is a commitment there to have landholders take their responsibility seriously.
The bill also binds the ACT government, so it will have to think carefully about planning decisions that involve the clearing of remnant vegetation. I propose that the law be triggered at the point that ACTPLA seeks to divide a block into portions that fall below a threshold of 0.2 hectares, where the boundary of the subdivision runs through an area of native vegetation that is 0.2 hectares or larger.
If the government chooses to release for development land that is larger than 0.2 hectares, the developer would become responsible for getting a vegetation management plan approved. I hope that this legislation will make both government and developers decide that it is simpler to develop areas that have already been cleared and, if that is not possible, to see the benefit of regenerating or rehabilitating other parts of the ACT so that the ACT returns to being the bush capital.
I have put exemptions in this bill for clearing in the interests of public safety, including activities under the Emergencies Act, such as the construction of fire breaks and fire trails. There are also exemptions for works under the Utilities Act and exemptions to allow rural leaseholders to continue routine agricultural management activities, so this bill should not provide a threat to existing sustainable agricultural practices.
This bill is designed to protect patches of vegetation supporting species native to the ACT, but we recognise that it is harder to support patches dominated by species that are native to Australia but not to the ACT. Under this bill, approval to clear native vegetation will be granted only if the conservator has approved a vegetation management plan that sets out the scope of the intended clearing and the undertakings to revegetate or rehabilitate other areas, including undertaking ongoing care of the revegetated or rehabilitated lands. A vegetation management plan can run for up to 30 years and will bind subsequent owners of the land for as long as it operates.
This bill complements the tree protection regime applying to urban areas and it applies to urban areas, but only to patches of native vegetation, not individual trees, as does the tree protection regime. It does not apply to vegetation in conservation reserves. The recent