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NSW Department of Planning and Environment
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The State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017 (Vegetation SEPP) sets the rules for the clearing of native vegetation in NSW on land zoned for urban and environmental purposes that is not linked to a development application.

 

The policy works with the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and the Local Land Services Act 2013 to provide the Land Management and Biodiversity Conservation (LMBC) framework across NSW.

 

The Vegetation SEPP ensures that if the clearing of native vegetation on land zoned for urban or environmental purposes exceeds entry thresholds the Biodiversity Offset Scheme will apply. The Vegetation SEPP also allows councils to manage vegetation clearing in their local area through a permit system.

 

The Vegetation SEPP was amended on 17 September 2021 to replace the transitional Clause 27 with a permanent framework for land clearing associated with routine agricultural activities. This enables landholders to go about their daily activities without the need for approval. It commenced on 18 December 2021 and the temporary arrangements under Clause 27 no longer apply.

 

The updated framework includes 'allowable activities' that can be carried out on land being used for agriculture and zoned C2, C3, C4 and R5. The allowable activities will be available to landholders in Local Government Areas where the transitional clause 27 applied excluding Local Government Areas in Greater Sydney. Newcastle Local Government Area continues to be excluded but land west of the M1 Motorway in the Central Coast Local Government Area is included (clause 27 did not apply here). See the below link to the 'Allowable Clearing Map' showing where the new provisions apply.

The allowable activities on land zoned C3, C4 and R5 include:

  • constructing or maintaining
    • permanent boundary fences
    • farm access tracks
    • Private power lines
    • Planted native vegetation
    • Environmental protection works
  • Maintaining:
    • Electricity transmission infrastructure
    • Water supply and gas supply infrastructure
    • Telecommunications infrastructure
    • Permanent internal fences.

 

Allowable activities permitted on C2 zoned land, include:

  • Constructing and maintaining a permanent boundary fence
  • Maintaining an existing permanent internal fence,
  • Maintaining an existing farm access track.
  • Maintaining existing:
    • electricity transmission infrastructure (including private power lines),
    • water and gas supply infrastructure
    • telecommunications infrastructure

Before using the allowable clearing provisions to clear native vegetation on R5, C2, C3 or C4 zoned land the following conditions must be met.

  • The land must meet the primary production test in the SEPP. The updated SEPP includes a landholding threshold test. This is used by the landholder to determine if the land has an existing and continuing agricultural use based on the widely used and recognised definition included in section 10AA of the Land Tax Management Act 1956 and includes: 
    • the cultivation of land for the purpose of selling the produce of the land, 
    • the maintenance of animals (including birds), whether wild or domesticated, for the purpose of selling them or their natural increase or bodily produce, 
    • commercial fishing or the commercial farming of fish, molluscs, crustaceans or other aquatic animals,
    • the keeping of bees for the purpose of selling their honey or other apiary products, 
    •  commercial plant nursery,
    • the propagation for sale of mushrooms, orchids or flowers.
  • The clearing must be caried out in a way that minimises the risk of soil erosion
  • The clearing must be undertaken to the minimum extent necessary to do the allowable activity
  • The clearing must not be on land that is subject to an order under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, Part 11 including:
    • a stop work order
    • an interim protection order
    • a remediation order
    • a biodiversity offsets order
    • Directions relating to protected animals and threatened species of animals
  • The clearing must not exceed maximum clearing distances set out in the SEPP.
  • The maximum clearing distances for items of linier infrastructure is the total width of the clearing and the maximum clearing distance for fixed point infrastructure is measured from the perimeter of the infrastructure and includes the area the infrastructure is located on.
  • Maximum clearing distances are not cumulative.
  • If the maximum clearing distances of two items of infrastructure overlap, the maximum distances cannot be combined.
  • Separate items of infrastructure must be located so the overall clearing is minimised. E.g., if possible multiple items of infrastructure should be located closer to each other to reduce overall clearing.
  • For the construction of or maintenance of fences, the maximum clearing distance is 6 metres
  • For the construction of or maintenance of farm tracks the maximum clearing distance is 6 metres
  • For clearing for maintenance of electricity transmission infrastructure, the maximum clearing distances are based on the nominal operating voltage of the power line as follows:
    • Not more than 11 kV 20 metres
    • Above 11 kV up to and including 33 kV 25 metres
    • Above 33 kV up to and including 66 kV 30 metres
    • Above 66 kV up to and including 132 kV 45 metres
    • Above 132 kV up to and including 330 kV 60 metres
    • Above 330 kV 70 metres

Some higher risk routine land management activities may be appropriate in the C3, C4 and R5 zones. We are reviewing this and working to expand the range of allowable activities available under the Vegetation SEPP.

The government intends to include the following allowable activities once guidelines have been developed to support these activities being carried out in a way that minimises risk to the environment.

  • Sustainable grazing
  • Clearing to remove imminent risk to life or property
  • Removing invasive native species
  • Native vegetation thinning

 

End of Transitional Clause 27

The Vegetation SEPP was introduced in 2017 and it contained a transitional provision (Clause 27). Clause 27 continues arrangements that existed under the Native Vegetation Act 2003 prior to the LMBC reforms commencing in 2017.

 

Clause 27 allowed some land clearing without approval to ensure that agricultural land users could continue to operate effectively.

 

The clause applied where a council had previously selected to continue this arrangement via its Local Environmental Plan (LEP) on land zoned:

  • C2 Environmental Conservation
  • C3 Environmental Management
  • C4 Environmental Living
  • R5 Large Lot Residential

 

On 18 December 2021 the permanent framework commenced and clause 27 was repealed.

 

More information

For more information about Vegetation SEPP 2021 you can:

 

View the policy on the NSW Legislation website.

Page last updated: 24/12/2021