Forestry, Clearing Vegetation & Trees
Forests, native vegetation and trees are an essential part of healthy ecosystems
They provide clean air and fresh water, soil protection, carbon capture and storage, and climate regulation. Forests, native vegetation and trees also provide vital habitat to native species.
Clearing is widely accepted as the main driver of vegetation change and decline, and is recognised as a key threatening process affecting the survival of threatened species. It is also a major contributor to soil erosion, salinity, and climate change. Read more about the state of NSW forests in our discussion paper If a Tree Falls, and about NSW forests and native vegetation in the 2012 NSW Government State of the Environment Report.
Forests, native vegetation, and trees are protected in NSW under several different frameworks, which regulate:
- forestry operations on public land;
- forestry operations on private land, also known as private native forestry;
- land clearing in rural areas; and
- impacts on trees and bushland in urban areas.
See our Fact Sheets on Forestry, Clearing Vegetation, and Tree Disputes for more information. The framework that regulates clearing native vegetation and lopping or removing trees will depend on whether the area in question is zoned rural or urban under planning laws. To find out more about land use zoning, see our Fact Sheet on LEPs and SEPPs.
Responding to government proposals
The Australian and NSW governments regularly invite input from the community on proposed changes to environmental laws.
- To participate in the five-yearly review of NSW’s three Regional Forest Agreements, visit the EPA website. Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) are agreements made between the NSW and Australian governments for specific regions of the country NSW. RFAs set out, amongst other things, 20-year plans identifying which forests should be reserved for conservation purposes and which are available for logging. This national approach is guided by the National Forest Policy Statement. For more information about Regional Forest Agreements, see our Fact Sheet on forestry.
- To participate in the five-yearly review of NSW Forest Agreements and Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals, visit the EPA website. NSW Forest Agreements are agreements made between the NSW Minister for the Environment and the NSW Minister for Primary Industries for specific regions of the State. Forest agreements contain provisions for ecologically sustainable forest management, sustainable timber supply, community consultation, and native title and Aboriginal land claims. Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOAs) can be issued to authorise forestry operations in State forests or other Crown timber lands. An IFOA is a single document which incorporates the terms of an environment protection licence, a licence to harm or kill threatened species or its habitat, and/or a licence to harm or kill a threatened species of fish or its habitat. For more information about NSW Forest Agreements and Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals, see our Fact Sheet on forestry.
- Contact your local council to comment on draft Local Environmental Plans (LEPs) – these will usually be advertised on their website. There is also a LEP tracking system on the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure website where you can track the progress of the LEP-making process. To read more about LEPs, see our Fact Sheet on LEPs and SEPPs.
Responding to applications
- To comment on developments likely to impact on matters of national environmental significance, such as threatened species or world heritage areas, visit the Australian Government’s EPBC Act website. For more information about how the environment and heritage is protected under national laws, see our Fact Sheet on the EPBC Act.
- Comment on applications for environment protection licences on the EPA website. Many types of development require environment protection licences, including some forestry operations. The EPA must consider these comments in deciding whether to grant a licence. This includes any public submissions made under the development assessment process.
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 on forests, native vegetation and trees. 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 an approval to clear native vegetation. You can also check the public register under the Native Vegetation Act 2003 (NSW) for information about existing Property Vegetation Plans (PVPs) and other consents granted relating to native vegetation. If you are unsure about whether an action is an offence or not, call the Environment Line on 131 555.
National and State enforcement authorities can issue stop work notices in many cases where unauthorised activities are occurring that harm the environment and heritage.
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:
Carrying out forestry operations in Commonwealth national parks without approval.
Carrying out forestry operations in World Heritage areas without approval.
Clearing listed threatened species and communities without approval.
Report unlawful forestry operations on public land to the Environment Line on 131 555. To see the EPA’s recent activities regulating the operations of the Forestry Corporation of NSW, visit the EPA website.
Report illegal clearing of native vegetation in a rural area to the Environment Line on 131 555. Note that routine agricultural management activities are permitted to be carried out without the need to approval. Also note that some activities may be permitted under a property vegetation plan (PVP) or a development consent. For more information about clearing vegetation, see our Fact Sheet on clearing vegetation, and visit the public register of PVPs and development consents authorising clearing.
Report a breach of a tree preservation order or local environmental plan (LEP) to your local council. You may also be able to bring civil enforcement proceedings yourself in the Land and Environment Court to prevent the breach of a tree preservation order or LEP.
If you are involved in a tree dispute in an urban area, you can apply to the Land and Environment Court for an Order to resolve the dispute. For more information about tree disputes, see our Fact Sheet on tree disputes.
To report a suspected breach of NSW planning law, contact your local council or the NSW Department of Planning and Environment. For more information about how building and development is regulated and who the responsible authority is for different types of development, see our Fact Sheet on DAs and consents. Examples of breaches include:
Removing native vegetation without the required consent.
Carrying out building or development work without the required approval.
Breaching the conditions of a development consent.
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.
- Join the NSW Boards and Committees register, which is a list of people interested in serving on NSW Government boards and committees, such as reserve trusts for the protection of certain areas of environmental and heritage significance.
- Contact your local council to speak to them about joining a committee. Many councils have community advisory and consultative committees which may act as a liaison between the council and the community, or advise the council on matters such as the environment, heritage, and building and development.
The national, State and local governments provide continuing opportunities to be involved in the laws designed to protect the environment.
- Landholders can make Property Vegetation Plans (PVPs) with the NSW Government for a variety of reasons, including to protect native vegetation on their land, to get approval for clearing activities, and to apply for native vegetation incentive funding. PVPs are voluntary agreements. For more information about PVPs, visit the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage website, or see our Fact Sheet on clearing vegetation.
- Visit the Australian Government’s public consultation portal, where a range of proposals that may relate to native vegetation 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 native vegetation are discussed.
- Visit the NSW Government’s Have Your Say website, where a range of proposals that may relate to native vegetation are discussed, and exhibited for public comment.