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Land Clearing in Queensland

Native vegetation clearance (of both remnant and regrowth vegetation) represents the most significant cause of mortality of wildlife in Queensland. According to reports, more than a hundred million native mammals, birds and reptiles were killed each year in Queensland between 1997 and 1999, as a result of land clearing.

In South East Queensland, land clearing and vegetation removal is governed by local, state and federal legislation including:

  • the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992;
  • the Queensland Vegetation Management Act 1999; and
  • the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

These statutes provide some degree of protection for wildlife affected by land clearing. More recently councils have been including the requirement of onsite spotter/catchers during the clearing and development as part of conditions of council development approvals.

What is a spotter/catcher?

A spotter/catcher is any person holding a current Rehabilitation Permit licensed under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992. The permit authorises the holder to take a protected animal other than a koala, whose habitat is about to be destroyed by human activity.

Why are spotter/catchers needed?

Spotter/catchers ensure that the animal welfare and ecological impacts resulting from clearing or development activities are minimised through the preparation and implementation of Fauna Management Plans; the detection, capture and removal of wildlife from sites that are to be developed; and the relocation of fauna that are captured prior to and during clearing operations to suitable habitat areas. As such spotter/catchers must have knowledge of be competent in:

  • fauna survey techniques;
  • fauna identification and the identification of habitat and habitat resources of significant fauna;
  • the humane capture, trapping and handling of fauna; and
  • all local, state and federal statutes and laws relevant to the conduct of activities and responsibilities of spotter/catchers.

What is a koala spotter?

The Nature Conservation (Koala) Conservation Plan 2006 and Management Program 2006-2016 established best practice guidelines for clearing where koalas may be present, including the requirement for on site Koala Spotters. A Koala Spotter helps to protect koalas from death or injury and allow their safe movement away from a clearing site.

Under the Koala Plan a Koala Spotter is defined as “a person who has demonstrated experience in locating koalas through survey or monitoring, or has experience in locating fauna, conducting fauna surveys or spotting koalas in their natural habitat”. As such a licensed spotter/catcher may undertake the role of a Koala Spotter.

When is a koala spotter needed?

Under the Koala Plan a Koala Spotter is required if a person/s intend to clear (i.e. remove, cut down, ring bark, push over or destroy in any way including burning, flooding or draining) a tree species identified as Angorphora, Corymbia, Eucalyptus, Lophostemon or Malaleuca with a minimum trunk diameter of 10 cm to 1.3 m from the ground and are located within Koala Habitat Areas of Koala District A. Koala Habitat Area maps can be viewed by accessing the DERM website (link).

The use of a Koala Spotter outside of Koala District A is also encouraged as a precautionary measure for areas where koalas occur or are likely to occur.

A Koala Spotter must be appointed by the person authorising the clearing to be carried out (e.g. developer / landholder) before any clearing activities are undertaken. Failure to meet Koala Spotter requirements is an offence and penalties apply.

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