Native vegetation FAQs

Are there new native vegetation management rules for bushfire safety?

What are the new rules that apply to reducing the impact of bushfire?

Why is native vegetation management important for bushfire safety?

Am I required to remove native vegetation from within 20 metres of my house or buildings?

What about 'Significant Trees'?

How do I get approval to clear native vegetation?

Who can approve native vegetation clearance applications for bushfire safety?

Why did the State Government amend the native vegetation management rules?

How is the State Government informing the community about the new rules?

What is 'native vegetation'?

What is a 'prescribed building'?

What is a 'prescribed structure'?

What is a 'bushfire prevention plan'? 

Are there new native vegetation management rules for bushfire safety? 

Yes.  To help South Australia be bushfire-ready this summer, the State Government has amended the native vegetation clearance legislation to provide for a simple, local, expert and planned approach to the management of native vegetation for bushfire safety.

These rules are outlined in new fact sheets on the protection of buildings, structures and general fuel reduction works, together with a new Guide for managing Native Vegetation to reduce the impact of Bushfire (2009). The new rules will help manage bushfire risks and protect lives and property, while minimising the impacts on native vegetation, animals and their ecosystems. 

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What are the new rules that apply to reducing the impact of bushfire? 

In most areas landowners can now reduce, modify or remove all vegetation including native vegetation, within 20 metres of a prescribed building and within 5 metres of a prescribed structure on their property, without approval from CFS or the Native Vegetation Council.  That approval does not permit the clearance of significant trees.

If you want to remove or modify a 'significant tree' as defined under the Development Regulations 2008, you will need approval from your Local Council.

You will need approval from the CFS to reduce, modify or remove native vegetation that is further than 20 metres from a prescribed building (or further than 5 metres from a prescribed structure), if:

  • a bushfire prevention plan is not in place
  • the proposed fuel reduction activities are not incorporated under an approved bushfire prevention plan

The strategic reduction of fuel on a property can be done according to a CFS-approved bushfire prevention plan.  Other fuel reduction activities, such as prescribed burning, that are not identified as part of an approved bushfire prevention plan also need to be approved by the CFS.  Download an application form here.

The clearance of larger trees, where those trees occur within the River Murray flood plain (as measured by the 1956 floods) and are outside of a city or township, requires an approval from the Native Vegetation Council.

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Why is native vegetation management important for bushfire safety? 

Being prepared for a bushfire is a shared responsibility.  The State Government has initiated a range of programs to reduce the risks to life and property posed by bushfire; however private landowners also have a part to play in keeping their property bushfire-ready.  The management of fuel loads, including the selective management of native vegetation, is one of many steps landowners can take to prepare their properties for the bushfire season.

Across the agricultural regions of the state an estimated 80% of the original cover of native vegetation has been cleared.  Much of what remains is fragmented, so there is greater potential for further degradation to do with weed invasion and other actions.  Achieving the balance between bushfire protection and managing the remaining areas of native vegetation to avoid further losses in the biodiversity values of an area are important.

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Am I required to remove native vegetation from within 20 metres of my house or buildings? 

No.  The intention of the new rules is to reduce the impact of bushfire through managing bushfire fuel loads. You are encouraged to consult with the CFS on ways to manage bushfire risks while minimising impacts on native plants, animals and their ecosystems.  As an example, removing weeds may be the most suitable method to reduce the fuel load on your property while retaining the environmental values associated with the native vegetation.  Retaining trees in strategic areas may also offer some protection for homes and buildings, and CFS can provide advice on this. 

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What about 'Significant Trees'? 

Under the Development Act 1993 (Development Regulations 2008) a 'Significant Tree' is a class of tree within a designated area that has a trunk with a circumference of 2 metres or more or, in the case of trees with multiple trunks, that have trunks with a total circumference of 2 metres or more and average circumference of 625 millimetres or more, measured at a point 1 metre above natural ground level.  The Development Act 1993 works in parallel with the Native Vegetation Act 1991 in areas to which that Act applies (essentially rural areas and vegetated parts of metropolitan Adelaide).

Significant trees can include both native and non-native species.  Although you may have an exemption to remove or modify  a native tree within 20 metres of your dwelling, you will still need to obtain approval from your Local Council if that tree meets the set criteria of a 'significant tree'.

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How do I get approval to clear native vegetation? 

The Guide for managing Native Vegetation to reduce the impact of Bushfire and associated fact sheets provide a step-by-step process to follow when seeking to reduce, modify or remove native vegetation for bushfire safety.  You can visit your Local Council office or contact your CFS Regional Prevention Officer to discuss details of the process.

You can also download the application form Application to Manage Native Vegetation to Reduce the Impact of Bushfire and submit the application to your CFS Regional Office

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Who can approve native vegetation clearance applications for bushfire safety? 

The authority to approve native vegetation clearance for bushfire fuel reduction works lies with the CFS.

If what you're planning to do is not covered by the recent changes to the native vegetation approval process, CFS will refer the matter to the Native Vegetation Council for approval. 

Where the work you're planning will impact on significant areas of native vegetation, the CFS may seek advice from the Native Vegetation Council or other state agencies on the biodiversity values of the site and possible options that may reduce those impacts while still reducing the impact of bushfires.  In these cases, provided the proposed works are consistent with the recent changes to the legislation, the decision process remains with the CFS.  

Similarly, the CFS may seek advice from relevant authorities on the potential impacts of any fuel reduction works or water quality or soil degradation issues that may be apparent as a result of a site inspection/assessment process.

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Why did the State Government amend the native vegetation management rules? 

Following the devastation caused by bushfires in Victoria in early 2009, the South Australian Government took immediate steps to review the native vegetation management clearance rules as they related to bushfire safety.

As a result the rules and processes have been simplified with most decisions now being made by the CFS.

In September 2009, the State Government released the Guide for managing Native Vegetation to reduce the impact of Bushfire which details the new rules.  A number of fact sheets relating to specific aspects of the guide are also available.

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How is the State Government informing the community about the new rules? 

The Guide and a series of simple fact sheets detailing the new rules are available from this website and at Local Council offices, regional government offices, and offices of the SA MFS and CFS. 

An education and information campaign is also being implemented to help raise awareness among all South Australians, in particular those in rural communities and those on the urban fringe, of how to be better bushfire prepared.

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What is 'native vegetation'? 

Native vegetation includes all naturally occurring local native plants, from small groundcovers and native grasses to large trees.  It also includes marine vegetation and certain species of dead trees in some areas.  Plants may be part of a bushland community or single trees in pasture. 

Vegetation that has been planted is generally not covered by the Native Vegetation Act 1991, except in particular circumstances.  Greater detail on what is considered native vegetation is available from the native vegetation website.

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What is a 'prescribed building'? 

This definition includes houses and buildings within the meaning of the Development Act 1993 that are permanently fixed to the land.  Examples of a prescribed building include a dwelling, hotel, motel, school office building, shop, cafe, restaurant, service station, factory or hospital.  The definition also extends to an approved building that is in the course of construction if the foundations, concrete slab or other footings have been completed.

Prescribed buildings do not include non-habitable structures such as fences, swimming pools, retaining walls, masts and antennas or car parks.

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What is a 'prescribed structure'? 

This definition includes constructions used for primary production, the housing or feeding of animals, the storage of fodder, and the storage of vehicles or vessels, pump sheds, garden and pool sheds and fixed aviaries.

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What is a 'bushfire prevention plan'? 

A bushfire prevention plan is a document identifying threats and risks in the event of a bushfire.  The plan will outline actions, including fuel reduction works, the purpose of the fuel reduction works, any threats the fuel loads may pose to adjacent assets, and description and location of the fuel including native vegetation that may pose a risk. The plan should identify any environmental impacts that might result from fuel reduction works, such as weed invasion, soil erosion potential and impacts on water resources. If prepared by a single landowner or group of landowners, it should contain details of any consultation with CFS on how the proposed works are in line with the district bushfire prevention plan.

If approved by the CFS, that plan will allow works, including works involving the clearance of native vegetation, without the need for further approval from the CFS or Native Vegetation Council.

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