How the NSW Native Vegetation Act 2003 Affects Your Land

Because of their significant impact on property value, trees and vegetation can either help or seemingly hinder development. In order to protect trees with a higher conservation value, local governments may impose restrictions on the size and scope of development. However, the Arborist’s role is to seek a balance between ecology, economy and legislation. The NSW Native Vegetation Act 2003 provides the guidelines for a level 5 arborist report to outline management strategies of native vegetation on a regional basis.

Understanding the benefits and vital role of native vegetation within the local habitat means seeing its intrinsic value. The Native Vegetation Act 2003 exists for landholders as individuals to look towards the collective benefit for every living thing lucky enough to call the beautiful State of New South Wales home.

Why Native Vegetation Needs Protection

The Native Vegetation Act 2003 relates to the long-term, sustainable management and conservation of Australia’s native vegetation. Native vegetation holds significant value for social, economic and environmental interests. The State of New South Wales seeks to protect its native vegetation in order to preserve biodiversity;

Biodiversity is the variety of all forms of life – the different plants, animals and microorganisms, the genes they contain and the ecosystems of which they form a part.” – M Özyavuz

  • Native trees, shrubs, and grasses are deep-rooted perennials that provide important natural habitats for Australian wildlife and contribute to the retention of water quality and quantity, prevention of salinity and treatment of wastewater.
  • In addition to preventing land degradation, soil erosion and landslip, it can also act as a buffer to flood impacts. Native vegetation plays a vital role in plant pollination and insect control. Furthermore, looking below the surface, it plays an important role in soil fertility and nutrient recycling.
  • Indigenous vegetation is defined as any vegetation, or a combination of species of vegetation, that existed in the State prior to European arrival. These often include trees and vegetation that form part of an area of heritage or cultural significance. For example, trees planted to commemorate a significant historical event or directly associated with a public figure, ethnic or community group. For Aboriginal people, land is life-sustaining in every aspect: spiritually, physically, socially and culturally.

“For Aboriginal peoples, country is much more than a place. Rock, tree, river, hill, animal, human – all were formed of the same substance by the Ancestors who continue to live in land, water, sky.” – Ambelin Kwaymullina 

  • Maintaining this connection is vital to preserve history and pave the way for a sustainable future for younger generations. Native vegetation contributes significantly to the particular character of a landscape or townscape because it existed long before modern settlements, frequently serving as an edge zone along waterways, public roads or highways. 
  • When thinking towards the future, native vegetation must be considered for its role in creating urban canopies, which reduces the urban heat island effect. This green solution existed long before modern settlements and can readily be adapted in the present to promote a sustainable future.

Urban Development Through The Eyes Of The Arborist

In accordance with The Native Vegetation Act 2003, landholders will be required to submit a draft property vegetation plan to the Director-General for approval by the Minister, which will include provisions for native vegetation management on the land.  

A registered vegetation plan might outline the planning procedures regarding the broadscale clearing and thinning, routine agricultural management or restoration of natural vegetation. In some cases, it’s even possible to obtain external financial incentives for managing natural resources from relevant designated bodies.

When urban development takes place through the eyes of the Arborist, a deeper connection with the environment is formed. Understanding any compromise or restrictions that might arise from having protected vegetation on land earmarked for development ‒ from the early stages ‒ allows for the best decisions regarding the direction in which the project should be taken.

Failure To Comply With The Native Vegetation Act 2003

If there is any reason to believe that a landholder is in violation of the Act, the Director-General may, by written notice, issue an order directing the development to cease with immediate effect. 

  • Failure to comply with an order results in a punishable offence. The maximum penalty for corporations is 2,000 penalty units, with 200 penalty units added for each day the offence continues. Any other offenders face 1,000 penalty units, with 100 units added for each day the offence continues. The financial ramifications of this are significant because one penalty point in New South Wales holds a monetary value of $110.
  • The council will additionally take responsibility for any corrective measures that could result in the long-term hindrance of the development application. 

Since 1788, at least two-thirds (61%) of New South Wales’ original native vegetation has been cleared, thinned or otherwise disturbed. The percentage of cleared vegetation varies by region and has exceeded 90% in some instances. 

Clearing any area of natural vegetation has the potential to have a significant impact on biological diversity. While it may take years to notice negative consequences, reversing them would take decades.

Sustainable, Corrective, Restorative And Conservatory Management Solutions

With adherence to The Native Vegetation Act 2003 and the support, insight and expertise of a consulting level 5 Arborist, you as a landowner can take corrective, restorative and conservatory long-term and sustainable management of native vegetation, helping to form a mutually and symbiotic relationship with the land we all call home.

An outlined property vegetation plan must remain effective for the duration specified in the plan; in the case of the planned management of native vegetation, this can be up to 15 years. 

Regulations make provision for reviews of property vegetation plans to take place after ten years. This type of long-term solution must take into account changing legislation as well as a host of ecological, economic and environmental variables. 

The Support Of A Consulting Level 5 Arborist

Any property vegetation plan must be approved by the Minister to come into effect. Therefore, it is imperative to contract the consultancy of a level 5 arborist. From the first evaluation to the finalised vegetation plan, Treescience offers over 35 years of experience within the municipality, commercial and private sectors.  

When it comes to preparing a level 5 Arborist report as well as various assessments or planning procedures that comply with the local New South Wales government and consenting authorities, we are committed to finding research-driven project solutions that are smart, creative and sustainable. For more information, get in touch with the team or call 1300 731 859.