Changes announced to the Environmental Protection (Clearing of Native Vegetation) Regulations 2004

On 3 December 2013, the Minister for the Environment for Western Australia, Albert Jacob, announced that there would be amendments to the Environmental Protection (Clearing of Native Vegetation) Regulations 2004 (EP Regulations) to reduce red tape for farmers and land managers by making changes to the Native Vegetation Clearing Rules.

The changes to the EP Regulations were in part brought about by a review undertaken by the Department of Environment Regulation to streamline approvals and an increased number of prosecutions against farmers in breach of the EP Regulations (including most notably Max Schulz who was imprisoned as a result of his actions).

The changes to the EP Regulations took effect on 4 December 2013 and potentially unlock significant areas of agricultural land throughout Western Australia for the purposes of farming as well as avoiding the need for clearing permits to be obtained in certain circumstances.

The changes include:

  • the increase in time for owners and occupiers to maintain previously lawfully cleared areas for pasture, cultivation of forestry, without a clearing permit from 10 years to 20 years (Regulation 5, Item 1 of the EP Regulations);
  • an increase in the total area allowed per financial year per property, for prescribed clearing from one hectare to five hectares.  Limited clearing in this regard means clearing:
    • to construct a building;
    • for firewood;
    • to provide fencing and farm materials;
    • for woodwork;
    • along a fence line;
    • for vehicular tracks;
    • for walking tracks; and
    • isolated trees.

The practical implications of such changes are significant inasmuch as it will avoid the situation that the beneficial use of land zoned for rural purposes is lost because the land has been historically under utilized (by the increase of the maintenance provision to 20 years).

The changes will also result in the reduction of red tape for land managers in respect of the obligation / requirement to obtain a clearing permit for clearing under five hectares in any given financial year in the circumstances identified above.

Following the amendment, it is incumbent on farmers and land managers alike to review the opportunity for clearing to maximise the beneficial use of their land holdings in accordance with the EP Regulations and to ensure that all necessary precautions are taken in order to take advantage of the latest amendments.

EPA Environmental Protection Bulletin No 20: Protection of naturally vegetated areas through planning and development

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has recently released (in December 2013) Environmental Protection Bulletin No 20 setting out their views and expectation for the design of urban and peri-urban development proposals.

The Bulletin applies to structure planning, scheme amendment and subdivision development proposals in WA and is of considerable value in understanding the expectations of the EPA.

Disclaimer – the information contained in this publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. You should seek legal advice in relation to any particular matter you may have before relying or acting on this information. The Lavan team are here to assist.