State and local government agencies may use statutory covenants to achieve objectives aimed directly at preserving a native animal or plant, or a natural or physical feature that is of cultural or scientific significance.
State government agencies may enter into covenants with landholders to protect values and assets of state and regional significance where alternative measures are not applicable. The government will consider entering into covenants initiated by landholders if these agreements provide high levels of protection and contribute significantly to protecting a catchment, region or natural state asset.
Nature Refuge Program
DERM's Nature Refuge Program helps landholders to voluntarily preserve land with significant natural and/or cultural heritage values. Management responsibilities and other matters are set out in a conservation agreement.
Under the program, a statutory covenant can be used where a more binding and permanent arrangement is desired with future landowners. In this case the statutory covenant is used as an adjunct to conservation agreements established under the Nature Conservation Act and the covenant becomes the primary document, with the conservation agreement providing further detail.
Local government interests in statutory covenants generally arise when values to be protected are at the local or district level. However, in some circumstances where there is a high priority for conservation at the regional or state level, councils may wish to enter into a partnership with a state agency as joint covenantee.
Certain local governments are purchasing environmentally significant private landholdings and reselling the land on condition that the new owner register a statutory covenant. This is a more cost-effective alternative for ensuring the public benefits of protecting special features of the land than if the local government purchased the land and provided ongoing management and control.
Some local governments have also established covenanting programs to protect vegetation in their areas, and usually offer incentives such as rate rebates to promote participation in these programs.
Under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (PDF)*, statutory covenants must be consistent with local government planning schemes (section 87) or development approvals (section 349).
In certain circumstances, an applicant for a development approval may enter into a statutory covenant with a local government or state agency to fulfil particular performance requirements under conditions proposed for the approval, for example, not to remove certain vegetation.
Statutory covenants may contain general details about management issues and financial assistance, with specific detail provided in a separate management plan that is not registered.
The parties to a covenant may also sign an agreement and may incorporate this in the covenant. An agreement may refer to managing the land in accordance with a management plan.
Both covenantee and covenantor hold copies of the conservation agreement or management plan, which may be altered without amending the registered covenant.
When management plans are used and amended periodically, covenantee agencies will need a procedure for tracking the current version. Though new owners’ views on management may sometimes differ from those in the original plan, any amendments that seriously weaken the protection afforded to the property by the covenant should be avoided.
If the land that is the subject of a covenant has been sold, management agreements or plans can be renegotiated with the incoming landowner, or can continue. The choice will largely depend on the resources available to the covenanting agency. Whatever choice is made, keeping track of current owners will be paramount.
- See an example of a management plan agreed between a landholder and a local government.
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Last reviewed 14 March 2011
Last updated 13 May 2010