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Thinning vegetation under new Queensland VMA laws 2018

Queensland vegetation clearing laws were significantly altered under the Vegetation Management Act 1999 (VMA) amendments in May 2018, which included the removal of self-assessable codes for thinning remnant/ Category B vegetation.

This also mean that any thinning notifications/permits issued prior to May 2018 are now no longer valid.

Category B/Remnant areas can now only be thinned through a Development Approval process. This is a more involved process than the self-assessable codes, but generally still allow the thinning of vegetation that has thickened and impacting on grazing.

The vegetation thinning process requires:

  • An operational works development application under SARA (State assessment and referral agency)
  • An application fee of $3,130 (subject to CPI)
  • Evidence that the vegetation is thickened, including:
    • Aerial photographic history and/or
    • On ground tree counts
  • Responding to 10 performance outcomes under SDAP State code 16: Native vegetation clearing; including
    • Wetlands buffers
    • Watercourse buffers
    • Mechanical thinning on slopes greater than 5%
    • Acid sulphate soils
    • Maintaining the floristic composition of the vegetation
  • Maps of location and extent of the proposed clearing activities

What should be possible under the code:

  • Clearing native plants that are not normally associated with a vegetation community – like black wattle infestations
  • Thinning most eucalypt and gidgee communities to an average spacing of 5-7 m.
  • Thinning with a dozer on flat areas leaving an average spacing of 5-7 m

What is not possible under the code:

  • Thinning vegetation by use of a chain
  • Thinning for the sole purpose of grazing, thinning needs to be for the purpose of managing thickened vegetation
  • Thinning naturally thick vegetation communities – like many brigalow communities.

Category C and Category R vegetation can still be thinned through self-assessable codes, which allow similar thinning controls, but without a development application and associated application fee. Treating encroachment is also still available under the self-assessable code system.

For further details you can call Geoffrey Sinclair on 07 4994 1000, or email us at

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