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NSW Parliamentary Library Research Service

4.3

The Native Vegetation Act 2003

This Act repealed the Native Vegetation Conservation Act 1997 and introduced a new

regime of managing native vegetation. In summary, the five objects of the Act are:

  • To provide for, encourage and promote the management of native vegetation;

  • To prevent broadscale clearing unless it improves or maintains environmental

outcomes;

  • To protect native vegetation of high conservation value;

  • To improve the condition of existing native vegetation; and

  • To encourage the revegetation of land.

Part 3 of the Act provides for the clearing of native vegetation. Native vegetation must not be cleared except in a accordance with: a development consent granted in accordance with the Act; or a property vegetation plan. A person who carries out or authorises the carrying out of clearing in contravention of this section is liable to the maximum penalty under s126 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. This is currently 10,000 penalty units ($1,100,000). In addition, a court may also direct that person to plant new trees and vegetation and maintain those trees and vegetation to a mature growth, and provide a security for the performance of that obligation.

The Act defines broadscale clearing of native vegetation to mean the clearing of any remnant native vegetation or protected regrowth. Remnant native vegetation means any native vegetation other than regrowth, whilst regrowth means any native vegetation that has regrown since the earlier of the following dates:

  • 1 January 1983 in the case of land in the Western Division and 1 January 1990 for

all other land;

  • The date specified in a property vegetation plan.

The Minister is not to grant development consent for broadscale clearing unless the clearing will improve or maintain environmental outcomes. How these outcomes are defined was left to the regulations, and is explained in detail at the end of this section. The Act ties in the consent provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. The Minister is the consent authority for any development applications to clear native vegetation, and Part 4 of the EPA Act applies to the determination process of granting (or not) development consent by the Minister. However, the Regulations state that the normal provisions to consider in the EPA Act (section 79C) in determining a development application do not apply. Instead, the Minister is to have regard to any relevant provisions of catchment action plans, and as stated, consent is not to be granted unless the clearing concerned will improve or maintain environmental outcomes.

The Act provides for activities that are permitted to be carried out without consent or according to a property vegetation plan. These include: routine agricultural management activities; continuation of existing farming activities; and sustainable grazing.

Part 4 of the Act provides for property vegetation plans. These plans may include the

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