Farming & Private Land Management
Protected areas such as national parks account for only a small fraction of land in Australia. Landholders therefore have an essential role to play in biodiversity conservation and natural resource management
There are many legislative and policy initiatives which aim to improve land use practices and environmental management on private property. For more information on the legal rights and obligations of landholders, read The Rural Landholder’s Guide to Environmental Law in NSW.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries and Local Land Services (LLS) provide support to private landholders throughout NSW. Environmental issues relevant to farming and private land management include:
- mining and coal seam gas;
- clearing vegetation
- water management;
- private land conservation;
- BioBanking; and
- chemicals and pesticides.
Responding to government proposals
The national, State and local governments regularly invite input from the community on proposed changes to environmental laws.
- To comment on draft plans and policies regulating building and development, visit the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s website. The types of plans and policies made can include strategic planning for certain regions, draft legislation, plans for infrastructure precincts, and industry policies. The public can submit comments to the Department of Planning and Environment. To read more about plans and policies, see our Fact Sheet on LEPs and SEPPs.
- To comment on proposed Methodologies or submit a Methodology variation under the Carbon Farming Initiative, visit the Australian Government website. The Carbon Farming Initiative is a voluntary carbon offset scheme. Under the program, farmers and other landholders have the opportunity to earn income for reducing their emissions through improved agricultural and land management practices, such as the reduction of emissions from livestock or fertiliser use, or increasing carbon in soils or vegetation through reforestation.
- To comment on chemical reviews that the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) is carrying out, visit the APVMA’s website. Information about current chemical reviews can be found on the website. APVMA has the power to review and vary the conditions of registration of pesticides. It can decide to cancel their registration if new information shows that they will be generally harmful, or harmful if used in particular ways.
- To comment on pesticide control orders, visit the EPA website. Notices will appear in the NSW Government Gazette, which is published every Friday at 2pm. Pesticide control orders can be issued by the EPA to protect public health, property, the environment or trade, or to implement a decision or policy of the APVMA. Pesticide control orders cover things such as the use of 1080 baits for rabbits, feral pigs, wild dogs and foxes; endosulfan; aerial spraying; 1080 liquid concentrate; and the use of 1080 in livestock collars.
- To comment on chemical control orders, visit the EPA website. Notices will appear in the NSW Government Gazette, which is published every Friday at 2pm. If the EPA is concerned that a particular chemical substance is likely to be accumulated, dumped or abandoned, it can declare that substance to be a 'chemical waste'. The EPA has the power to make a chemical control order over a declared chemical waste at any time. Chemical control orders can be made for chemicals that have been declared as waste and for any other chemicals that are declared as environmentally hazardous. A chemical control order can prohibit the use of a chemical, and can specify how the controlled chemical can be safely handled and disposed of. Chemical control orders are usually made where controls on chemicals are required beyond those available under pollution laws (e.g. discharge limits under pollution licences, or labelling requirements).
Responding to applications
- To comment on major project applications, visit the NSW Department of Planning and Environment's website. These are developments that are considered to be of State or regional significance. They are often large scale developments, and include developments that have the potential to have significant impacts on the environment. The public can submit comments to the Department of Planning and Environment. To read more about the assessment of major projects, see our Fact Sheet on State significant development and infrastructure.
- To comment on development applications that are notified in your local area, visit your local council’s website – DAs are often notified in a local newspaper and on the council’s website. Note that public comment is not invited for all developments assessed by the local council, and some types of development do not require public notification or involvement. For more information on development assessment processes, see our Fact Sheet on DAs and consents.
- To comment on applications for environment protection licences, visit the EPA’s website. The EPA must consider the public’s comments in deciding whether to grant a licence. This includes any public submissions made under a development assessment process. Certain polluting activities require a licence from the EPA. This can include pollution of water or land by industrial chemicals, such as chemical production and storage activities. The EPA is required to keep a public register of all declared chemical wastes and chemical control orders and all environment protection licences and environmentally hazardous chemical licences. For more information on environment protection licences, see our Fact Sheet on air, water and noise pollution.
- To comment on applications to vary environment protection licences, visit the EPA’s website. You can also comment on existing licences at any time. Licences are required to be reviewed by the EPA or other responsible authority at least every five years. You can write to the EPA and request a statement of reasons explaining why the EPA granted or refused an environment protection licence application. This includes applications for transfers or variations.
- You can comment on applications licences to use environmentally hazardous chemicals subject to a chemical control order. The EPA may publish applications in the NSW Government Gazette, which is published every Friday at 2pm.
- You can comment on applications to transfer a licence to use environmentally hazardous chemicals subject to a chemical control order. The EPA may publish applications in the NSW Government Gazette, which is published every Friday at 2pm.
Notifications about opportunities to comment on proposals are often required to be published. The NSW Government is required to publish notices for some proposals in a locally circulating newspaper, and sometimes a newspaper that circulates throughout NSW (often The Land). You can keep an eye on the papers to make sure that you don’t miss an opportunity to comment.
Monitoring and enforcement
Both governments and proponents have responsibility for monitoring the impacts of activities the environment and heritage. You can also monitor the impacts of activities on the environment, such as water and air quality.
Before reporting suspected breaches of environmental laws you will require evidence. It is also important to remember that the law contains certain exceptions and defences to offences. The most common defence is that a person has a permit or licence to take the action which would otherwise be an offence, such as a property vegetation plan authorising clearing. If you are unsure whether an action is an offence or not, call the Environment Line on 131 555.
- Contact the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) if you are concerned that someone may be lighting a fire unlawfully. A bush fire hazard reduction permit from the RFS or a fire permit may be required before a fire can be lit. In some local council areas approval to burn vegetation or other material may be required from the local council or the EPA. Generally, there is no need to obtain this approval to burn vegetation if the burning is conducted in the course of carrying on agricultural operations. However, approval may still be required if the burning meets the definition of clearing. There is also an exception for the destruction of an animal that has died, or is reasonably suspected of having died, as a result of a disease. Read more about fire management in The Rural Landholder’s Guide to Environmental Law in NSW.
- Contact Local Land Services (LLS) if you are concerned about weed control or pests on a property.
- If you observe animals being mistreated or neglected, you can make a confidential report to the RSPCA.
- To report a suspected breach of national environmental law, visit the Australian Government’s EPBC Act website. To read more about how the environment is protected under national environmental law, see our Fact Sheet on the EPBC Act. Examples of breaches include:
- Taking an action that is likely to have a significant impact on a nationally listed threatened species, population or ecological community.
- Taking an action that is likely to have a significant impact on a nationally listed migratory species.
- Report a suspected breach of NSW environmental law to the Environment Line on 131 555. Examples of illegal activity include:
- Damaging the habitat of threatened species, populations or ecological communities.
- Damaging a heritage item without approval.
- Report harm of a species protected in NSW to the Environment Line on 131 555. Examples of illegal activity include:
- Harming an animal that is a threatened species, population or an ecological community, or picking any plant that is a threatened species, population or ecological community. Click here for more information about how threatened species and ecological communities are protected in NSW.
- Report pollution incidents to the Environment Line on 131 555. If you are concerned about the use of chemicals or pesticides, or a pollution incident, you should first contact the individual or company to request an explanation and ask them to fix the problem.
- Report breaches of water management legislation to the Environment Line on 131 555, including water theft, harming a water source, and breaching the conditions of a water licence.
- Report pesticides offences to the Environment Line on 131 555. Offences include:
- Breaching a pesticide control order.
- Using pesticides in a way that injures or damages or is likely to injure or damage a person or their property, or any animal or plant that is not a target of the pesticide.
- Using pesticides in a way that harms any threatened animals or other animals protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NSW).
- Possessing and using unregistered pesticides without a permit. A permit will have conditions that must be complied with. There are two levels of pesticide regulation in Australia. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) is responsible for deciding which pesticides can be registered and the conditions under which they should be used and sold, and State and Territory governments are responsible for ensuring that pesticides are used according to label directions and permits.
- Using pesticides contrary to the label.
- Storing pesticides in a container without an approved label.
- Report chemicals offences to the Environment Line on 131 555. Offences include:
- Breaching a chemical control order.
- Breaching the conditions of an environmentally hazardous chemicals licence.
- Carrying out a prohibited activity such as manufacturing, processing, storing, or distributing a chemical without permission from the EPA.
Under certain environmental laws, any person has the right to bring proceedings in a Court to remedy or restrain a breach. In NSW, this is mainly to the Land and Environment Court. For breaches of national environmental law, it is the Federal Court. See How can I have my say? for more information. You should contact the EDO NSW Environmental Law Line to request some initial legal advice if you would like to take this step.
Shaping environmental laws
Many environmental laws merely set out the framework for protecting the environment and rely on community involvement for proper protection. You can proactively seek to improve environmental laws through these processes.
- Submit a Carbon Farming Initiative Methodology for assessment. The Carbon Farming Initiative is a voluntary carbon offset scheme. Under the program, farmers and other landholders have the opportunity to earn income for reducing their emissions through improved agricultural and land management practices, such as the reduction of emissions from livestock or fertiliser use, or increasing carbon in soils or vegetation through reforestation. Methodologies can be developed by individuals, industry associations, and government bodies.
- Nominate a pesticide for review by the APVMA. You will need to provide research or evidence that the pesticide is harmful to health or the environment. APVMA has the power to review and vary the conditions of registration of pesticides. It can decide to cancel their registration if new information shows that they will be generally harmful, or harmful if used in particular ways.
The national, and State and local governments provide continuing opportunities to be involved in the laws designed to protect the environment.
- There are opportunities for landholders to protect native plants and animals on their land through private land conservation initiatives. Landolders may be able to enter into an agreement with the NSW or Australian Government or a non-government organisation for the purpose of protecting and conserving the biodiversity on their land. For more information about private land conservation, see our Fact Sheet on conservation on private land or EDO NSW’s Guide to Private Conservation in NSW.
- Visit the Australian Government’s public consultation portal, where a range of proposals are exhibited that may relate to farming and private land management for public comment.
- Visit the NSW Department of Primary Industries Have Your Say website, where a range of proposals that may relate to farming and private land management are exhibited for public comment.
- Engage in the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Community Engagement Forum, where a range of environment and heritage initiatives that may relate to farmining and private land management are discussed.
Visit the NSW Government’s Have Your Say website, where a range of proposals that may relate to farming and private land management are discussed, and exhibited for public comment.