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Clearing up confusion: new amendments to Queensland’s vegetation clearing provisions for fire management

With an unprecedented bushfire season upon us, much of the country blanketed by thick smoke, and weather conditions not improving, the clearing of vegetation for fire management activities has never been more topical.

The Planning (Spit Master Plan and Other Matters) Amendment Regulation 2019 (Qld) commenced on 6 December 2019, providing much needed clarification to the regime around approvals for vegetation clearing in Queensland.

The regime for vegetation clearing in the Planning Act 2016 (Qld) and the Planning Regulation 2017 (Planning Regulation) is highly complex and multi-layered. The new amendments implemented by the Queensland Government provide clarity by inserting a new section 20A into Schedule 6 Part 3, and a new section 13 in Schedule 7 of the Planning Regulation.

The amendments make it clear that operational work for native vegetation clearing is accepted development and does not require a development permit where the clearing:

  • is on the types of land specified (eg. freehold land or indigenous land); and
  • it is necessary for:
    • establishing or maintaining a necessary firebreak to protect infrastructure (other than a fence, road or vehicular track) where the maximum width of the firebreak is equal to 1.5 times the height of the tallest vegetation next to the infrastructure, or 20 metres, whichever is the wider; or
    • establishing a necessary fire management line where the maximum width of the clearing for the fire management line is ten metres.

The wording of these exceptions is consistent with parts (a) and (b) of the definition of ‘essential management’ in the current Planning Regulation.

The amendments also make clear that operational work that fits into the above categories cannot be made assessable development by a local planning scheme. The changes should provide increased certainty for landholders looking to clear their land for these purposes, particularly in light of the current bushfires throughout the State.


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