Unlawful native vegetation clearing results in Enforceable Undertaking for blueberry farmer

A blueberry farmer in the Clarence Valley has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment following the unlawful clearing of more than 11 hectares of native vegetation on their property.

Compliance officer determining suitability of remaining vegetation for future protection

NSW Department of Planning and Environment (the department) Compliance and Regulation Team Leader Troy Northey said the undertaking commits the landholder to a conservation agreement for their property, which will protect more than 22 hectares of remnant vegetation from clearing for a minimum of 25 years.

"Native vegetation is vital for the health of our environment. It provides habitat for native animals, protects the quality of soils and water and supports agricultural productivity," said Mr Northey.

"It's an offence to clear native vegetation on regulated rural land, unless the appropriate approvals have been granted under the Local Land Services Act (LLS Act)," said Mr Northey.

The LLS Act and the Land Management Code provide landholders with a range of options for undertaking lawful clearing to manage land while responding to environmental risks.

"Had the landholder sought and been granted these approvals, clearing could have been targeted to achieve the landholder's primary production goals while minimising impacts on native vegetation, and regulatory action could have been avoided," said Mr Northey.

Under the conservation agreement, the landholder is required to manage and protect biodiversity on the designated land through the control of weeds and introduced pest animal species. The landholder was also required to pay legal costs of approximately $10,000.

"We are pleased with the outcome of this regulatory action. Not only is the landholder now aware of the rules that exist around the clearing of native vegetation, the Enforceable Undertaking has also enabled the department to achieve a positive environmental outcome in the local area.

"The long-term conservation of this 22-hectare plot of remnant vegetation will deliver a range of benefits to local wildlife, providing habitat, refuge and perching sites, as well as a bountiful source of food, for native mammals and birds.

"We strongly encourage all landholders to contact Local Land Services (LLS) for advice prior to commencing any land management activities.

"LLS is there to help you understand your land management options and support you to manage your land to ensure more productive farming methods and systems while also protecting the natural environment," said Mr Northey.

Further information can be found on the Local Land Services website.

An enforceable undertaking is a voluntary and binding agreement to deliver tangible benefits for the environment and community.

Enforceable undertakings are one of a number of tools the department can use to achieve environmental compliance and is enforceable by the Land and Environment Court.