This page provides information on a range of federal and state legislation that is relevant to natural resource management.
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) is the Australian Government's central piece of environmental legislation. The EPBC Act provides a legal framework to protect and manage nationally threatened flora, fauna, and ecological communities and internationally important fauna, and heritage places — defined in the Act as matters of national environmental significance.
The Native Vegetation Act 2003 (and the accompanying Native Vegetation Regulations 2005) is the principal legislation controlling the management of native vegetation in rural areas of New South Wales. The Act applies essentially to rural and rural residential land that is privately owned or leased. Urban land, State forests, national parks and conservation areas are excluded from the operation of the Act.
The Native Vegetation Act makes it an offence to clear native vegetation unless the clearing is approved, permitted or exempt in the following circumstances:
The Native Vegetation Conservation Act covers areas not addressed in the above Act and as such regulates the clearing of:
For removal of exotic and dead tress on State Protected Land approval in accordance with the NVC Act is not required when works are undertaken in accordance with the "Guideline for the Clearing of Exotic and Dead Native Trees on State Protected Land"
National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974The National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 is the main law in NSW that protects Aboriginal culture and heritage. The Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC) has responsibility to identify, care for, and promote the culture and heritage environment of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultures in NSW. DECC maintains information systems to manage culture and heritage information so that anyone can locate, identify, conserve and interpret Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultural and heritage values, sites and objects. These systems are the Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System (AHIMS) and the Historic Heritage Information Management System (HHIMS).
Even when cultural heritage is protected, there is no guarantee that it will not be damaged or destroyed. Anyone can destroy cultural heritage if they have approval and DECC can give permission for the destruction of cultural heritage as well as permits to damage, destroy and remove objects and places of cultural heritage value. An Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit (AHIP) is the statutory instrument that DECC issues under sections 87 and/or 90 of the National parks and Wildlife Act 1974 to manage impacts on Aboriginal cultural heritage objects and places.
A license needs to be obtained from Lands before proceeding with any works on or attached to Crown land. This means that any works on Crown land, including the locating of removable structures such as pumps, moorings and floating pontoons must be licensed by Lands
The POEO Act allows for the protection of air, water and soil resources through the production of environment policies (PEPs), licensing of discharges related to air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution and waste management and also the ability to issue prevention (deal with unsatisfactory activities), clean up (deal with pollution incidences), and prohibition (to stop an activity) notices.
The Plantations and Reafforestation Act 1999 and the accompanying Plantations and Reafforestation (Code) Regulation 2001 provides an integrated consent framework for plantation development for the purpose of timber production and/or environmental benefit. Once a plantation has been authorised, the owner is responsible for carrying out plantation operations in accordance with the 'Code'. In the case of non-complying plantations, additional conditions may also be applied.
Within a Local Environmental Plan (LEP) council may have Tree Preservation Orders (TPO or the like) which makes it an offence to damage certain trees in a Local Government Area or zone. The terms of TPO's vary from council to council and some councils do not have them. To find out if a specific tree is protected, ask to see a copy of the TPO at your local council offices or check their website.
TPOs usually make it an offence to ring bark, prune, wilfully destroy, cut down or remove a tree without written consent from the council. It may be an offence to contravene the Order or to permit contravention of the Order. The TPO may only apply to trees over a certain size and will often include an exemption for species that are considered a nuisance. Breaching a TPO is a strict liability offence, which means that it is not necessary to prove that the person knew that he or she was breaching the order in order to establish that the person is guilty of the offence.
In NSW the Noxious Weeds Act 1993 is the primary legislative document on weed management. It sets out landholder legal responsibilities and aims to reduce the negative impact of weeds on the economy, community and environment of NSW by establishing control mechanisms. It also provides for the monitoring of and reporting on the effectiveness of the management of weeds in NSW. See http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/aboutus/about/legislation-acts/noxious-weeds for detailed information including the Act, noxious weeds list and more.
Under this Act, weeds are declared noxious by the NSW Minister for Primary Industries, as advised by the Noxious Weeds Advisory Committee. When declared noxious, they are categorised into one of five noxious weed classes which indicate the characteristics of the weed in relation to its current distribution and outlines control objectives and methods.
A landholder is legally required to control and remove noxious weeds from their property. No approval is required but there is to be no purposeful removal or injury to native vegetation as part of any noxious weed removal program. The removal of any noxious weed must be done in accordance with current best management practices or guidelines for that species.
The Water Act 2007 establishes an independent Murray-Darling Basin Authority with the functions and powers, including enforcement powers, needed to ensure that Basin water resources are managed in an integrated and sustainable way. The Act requires the Authority to prepare a strategic plan for the integrated and sustainable management of water resources in the Murray-Darling Basin. This plan is referred to as the Basin Plan.
This Act governs a number of activities including:
There are some licensing exemptions for basic property rights, Harvestable rights and Native Title.
The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar (Iran) in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 158 Contracting Parties to the Convention (including Australia).
The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 is the overarching piece of legislation for development within NSW. Part 3 of the Act allows for the production and implementation of planning instruments which govern development within NSW (Regional Environment Plan, REP, and or Local Environment Plan, LEP). Part 4 of the Act relates to development that requires the consent of council (Integrated Development, Complying Development and just ordinary developments). Part 5 of the Act relates to development that does not require the consent of council.
The Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 is administered by DECC and is one of several laws put in place to identify and conserve our threatened species, populations and ecological communities of terrestrial animals and plants. The protection of fish and marine plants is regulated by the NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994 which is administered by the Department of Primary Industries.
This Act provides for the conservation of soil resources and farm water resources and for the mitigation of erosion. The minister can declare erosion hazard areas and as such appoint the Lands department to undertake works within these areas.
The NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994 aims to protect fish and aquatic habitats for present and future generations. The Act provides for the protection of aquatic habitats through controls on dredging, reclamation, disturbance of fish habitat such as movement of snags and obstructions to fish passage from road crossings, culverts and causeways and the like. It also provides for the control of fish passage in relation to the placement of fishways on dams and weirs as well as the construction of levee banks and block banks.
The activities of vessels, in navigable waters, are controlled by NSW Maritime. Any mooring of vessels in navigable waters requires an Occupation Licence, issued by the NSW Maritime. An occupation license can be issued for a floating object, an apparatus or a vessel - any object on navigable waters which may be an obstruction. All moorings require a development application to be approved by council before a license can be issued.
The Heritage Act 1977 is the main legislation regulating and protecting natural, cultural and built heritage in NSW. The Heritage Act 1977 is administered by the Heritage Branch (formerly called the Heritage Office), which within the Department of Planning. The Act allows for heritage items or places to be listed on the State Heritage Register, or for interim heritage orders to be made to protect heritage items or places. A person who wishes to demolish, move, alter or in some way develop a place, building or land covered by an interim heritage order or a State Heritage Register listing (called "environmental heritage" ) must first obtain approval from the Heritage Council (or by local council if it is they who have made an interim heritage order). Any activity which might damage or destroy a tree or other vegetation on land or within a precinct relating to a heritage item also requires approval. An approval is not required for a Part 3A Major projects (as defined by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979).
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The Murray CMA is a partner to the Australian Government Caring for our Country program and the NSW Government Catchment Action program.