Duty of care
- What is duty of care?
- Codes of practice
- Property-level management programs
- Environmental management systems
- Further information
What is duty of care?
All landholders have a statutory obligation of duty of care for the land. This means that those responsible for managing natural resources must take all reasonable and practical steps to prevent harm to the environment and to areas of cultural heritage (including Indigenous culturally-significant areas).
Types of environmental harm include:
- land degradation (e.g. soil erosion and decline in soil structure)
- air pollution
- water pollution (including pollution by salt, agricultural chemicals and nutrients)
- invasion of weeds and pests
- destruction of ecosystems and habitat
- loss of species
- harm to areas of Indigenous cultural heritage significance.
The three basic components of duty of care are:
- sustainable use of natural resources
- conservation of biological diversity
- avoidance of harm to Indigenous cultural heritage.
In Queensland, duty of care provisions are set out in:
- Environmental Protection Act 1994 (duty of care to the environment)
- Land Act 1994 (duty of care to the land by users of state owned land)
- Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 and the Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage Act 2003 (duty of care to avoid harming Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage).
Visit the website of the Office of the Queensland Parliamentary Counsel to view copies of these Acts.
Codes of practice
Landholders can adopt an accepted code of practice to demonstrate how they are exercising duty of care. These codes, which set out broad strategies or management practices designed to achieve desired environmental outcomes are:
- usually associated with a legislated duty of care requirement (implying that individuals will manage a resource, or an area, in ways that will not result in environmental harm or resource degradation)
- normally prepared by or for industries to give individuals advice on how to comply with their duty of care.
Complying with a code of practice is recommended because if an incident that causes harm to the environment occurs, an individual may need to:
- show that they have complied with a code of practice
- demonstrate that their practices have not caused the problem.
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, the following codes of practice have been developed for agricultural industries in Queensland:
- Environmental Code of Practice for Australian Prawn Farmers
- Environmental Code of Practice for Agriculture
- Environmental Code of Practice for Queensland Piggeries
- Queensland Dairy Farming Environmental Code of Practice
- Sustainable Cane Growing in Queensland
- Sustainable Fruit and Vegetable Production in Queensland.
Other documents setting out best management practices for particular industries have also been developed (for example, Cotton Australia's Best Management Practices).
Property-level management programs
Producers can use these programs to identify and manage risks (particularly environmental risks) that may occur as a result of their farming operations. Programs can include performance monitoring and verification components.
Mechanisms are in place enabling state government agencies to consider property-level management programs for recognition. These mechanisms include the Accreditation Framework for Farm Management System Programs and the Land and Water Management Plan Recognition Framework.
Recognised programs can:
- give producers an alternative way to comply with specific regulatory requirements
- encourage quicker adoption of improved management practices.
Queensland’s intensive rural industries, under the banner of the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) have been at the forefront of developing FMS programs, including:
- Cotton Best Management Practices (BMP)
- Dairying Better ‘n Better for Tomorrow
- Canegrowers FMS
- Growcom 'Steps Towards Effective Management'
The Cotton BMP Program was accredited by the department in December 2007. Accreditation provides an alternative pathway for a person to meet the LWMP requirement under the Water Act 2000.
Environmental management systems
Industries are also developing voluntary product or process systems that allow producers to demonstrate compliance with established standards of practice using the EMS approach.
An environmental management system (EMS) must comply with standards such as those within the international ISO14000 series. The standards must involve:
- complementary codes of practice
- industry competency standards
- third-party performance audits.
An audited EMS gives an industry or an individual evidence of their environmental performance, and may help them gain access to markets that require compliance with standards and practices.
The following websites have more information on duty of care in land management:
Last reviewed 17 March 2011
Last updated 23 July 2009