Can I amend the SEQ Koala Habitat Map on my Property?
The iconic and adorable koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is a beloved Australian species that plays a vital role in maintaining the health and balance of our ecosystems. In south-east Queensland, there is a mapping system in place to identify and protect important koala habitat areas, as well as koala priority areas. This mapping supports the South-East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2020-2025 and koala conservation protections under development regulations, including the State planning framework and local government planning schemes.
The koala habitat area mapping is regularly updated by the State government to reflect changes in vegetation over time and to correct the koala habitat mapping. If you own property in Queensland and you believe that the koala mapping on your land is incorrect, you can make an application to amend or remove the mapping. You must follow the process provided by the Department of Environment and Science (DES) to justify your request. In this blog, we'll guide you through the steps on how to update the koala mapping on your property.
The below information is a summary of the information provided by DES on their website at Map amendment requests | Environment | Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (des.qld.gov.au)
Understanding your Koala Map
The koala habitat mapping plays an important role in protecting koalas – the mapping uses advanced habitat modelling that uses biophysical measures with known relationships to koala habitat (including climate, land cover, soil and groundwater), mapping that identifies vegetation communities suitable for koalas (‘koala habitat regional ecosystems’) and koala occurrence records to identify areas where koalas are known to inhabit or potentially inhabit. This mapping system underpins the conservation of koalas, as it is designed to focus conservation efforts on areas that have the highest probability of supporting koalas to help protect these areas from development and other threats. The map is based on the presence of koala feed and shelter trees, regardless of whether koalas occur on your land or not.
The SEQ Koala mapping identifies four important areas –
- Koala priority areas (KPAs) – these areas are large and connected areas that have the highest potential for supporting long-term survival of koalas and are also areas that are the focus for habitat protection, restoration and actions that target management of threats to koalas.
- Core koala habitat areas – these areas represent the best-quality koala habitat.
- Locally-refined koala habitat areas – these areas include areas of mature vegetation that may not meet the criteria for core habitat areas but which may contain locally important vegetation for koalas.
- Koala habitat restoration areas – these areas identify land with high conservation opportunities and low threats that can be restored and established as koala habitat areas.
it It is important to note that locally-refined koala habitat areas are given the same level of protection as core habitat areas under development regulations.
Property-scale maps can be accessed by downloading a Vegetation Management report from the Queensland Government website and can also be viewed on Queensland Globe. The Vegetation Management report will show:
- whether your property is inside or outside of a koala priority area;
- the location of any koala habitat areas on the property; and
- the type of regional ecosystems that make up koala habitat area(s) on the property (i.e. koala habitat regional ecosystems).
Other information including fact sheets about the mapping can be obtained on the Department of Environment and Science website.
Can I remove or amend the Koala map on my land?
A request to make, amend or revoke a koala habitat area determination under the mapping can only be made by the owner of the land, or a person acting on behalf of the owner if the landowner has provided written consent to the request being lodged.
The person submitting the request must provide relevant grounds for why it is believed the determination is incorrect and supporting information must be provided with the request; for example, aerial or satellite imagery, a vegetation assessment undertaken by a suitably qualified and experienced person (e.g., a vegetation ecologist or botanist), spatial data and site photographs.
Approved requests to amend or revoke koala habitat area will be incorporated into scheduled mapping updates.
On what grounds can I make an application?
The mapping is based on the combination of biophysical measures and suitability of vegetation in the area (including the presence of koala habitat regional ecosystems) and not based on the presence or absence of koalas on your land. You may not have observed koalas on your land – this is not considered to be sufficient grounds to amend or revoke the mapping.
There are three types of requests that can made:
- Request to make a koala habitat area determination – where you are seeking to have an area that is not currently mapped as koala habitat area to be mapped as a koala habitat area.
- Request to amend a koala habitat area determination – where you are seeking to have the boundary of a mapped koala habitat area amended.
- Request to revoke a koala habitat area determination – where you are seeking to have an area that is currently mapped as koala habitat area to no longer be mapped as a koala habitat area.
The process for amending or revoking the mapping on your land will depend on whether the request relates to core or local-refined koala habitat area. This is because there are different methodologies used to make koala habitat area determinations for these areas.
For requests that relate to core koala habitat area, the following grounds are considered reasonable:
- Option 1 - The area is mapped as a koala habitat area but clearly does not contain any native woody vegetation. For example, where the area has been legally cleared and is devoid of vegetation.
- Option 2 - The type of regional ecosystem present on your land is mapped as a koala regional ecosystem but has been confirmed as not a koala habitat regional ecosystem. A vegetation survey/ assessment would need to be undertaken to confirm that your land does not support any koala habitat regional ecosystems and that the vegetation’s floristic and structural composition is consistent with the proposed regional ecosystem/s.
- Option 3 - The type of regional ecosystem present on your land is not mapped as a koala regional ecosystem but has been confirmed as a koala habitat regional ecosystem. Like Option 2, this will require a vegetation survey/assessment to demonstrate that the vegetation’s floristic and structural composition is consistent with the proposed regional ecosystem.
- Option 4 - The koala habitat regional ecosystem boundaries that are mapped do not reflect the true extent of koala habitat regional ecosystem(s) that are present i.e.., where koala habitat regional ecosystem boundaries differ to the boundaries that are mapped. This option will require a vegetation survey/assessment that clearly delineates the proposed regional ecosystem boundaries and identifies the regional ecosystem for each polygon.
- Option 5 - The status of the regional ecosystem is not reflective of the vegetation community that is present. For example, where a regional ecosystem is mapped as either remnant or high value regrowth but the condition of vegetation does not meet the criteria for either remnant or high value regrowth. This option must be supported by suitable information to demonstrate that the proposed status of the regional ecosystem is accurate, which should include aerial or satellite imagery and a vegetation survey/assessment.
For requests that relate to locally-refined koala habitat area, the following grounds are considered reasonable:
- Option 6 - The area is mapped as a koala habitat area but clearly does not contain any native woody vegetation. For example, where the area has been legally cleared and is devoid of vegetation.
- Option 7 – The area is mapped as koala habitat area (locally-refined) but does not contain vegetation that is suitable habitat for koalas as it is not a koala regional ecosystem, regardless of the status (remnant, high value regrowth or otherwise) and does not contain any koala habitat trees.
If you believe that the vegetation on your property meets any of the above options, then you may be able to amend or revoke the koala map on your land.
Due to the scale of the mapping, the smallest koala habitat area determination that can be made, amended or revoked is 0.5 hectares. Cleared areas that are smaller than 0.5 hectares cannot be displayed on the map. While these areas may be mapped as koala habitat areas, landowners may be able to maintain cleared areas under an exemption that applies to clearing in a koala habitat area. These exemptions are outlined in the definitions of exempted development in Schedule 24 of the Planning Regulation 2017.
Note that you cannot make a request to make, amend or revoke a koala habitat area determination under the following grounds:
- to dispute whether a particular regional ecosystem provides suitable habitat for koalas where the regional ecosystem has been determined to be a koala habitat regional ecosystem;
- to dispute the presence or absence of certain biophysical measures that have been determined to have a relationship with koala habitat;
- to dispute whether koalas are present or absent from the area; or
- to amend one koala habitat regional ecosystem to another koala habitat regional ecosystem.
How to make an application?
We can help! Green Tape Solutions can assist by providing advice and undertaking specific ground-truthed assessments of koala habitat values on your land. Contact us now.