Skip to Content

More recent policies and programs

The following is a summary of key policies and programs currently in place to protect our land and biodiversity.

Natural Resources Management Act

The Natural Resources Management Act 2004 (NRM Act) includes supporting and encouraging restoration or rehabilitation of lost or degraded ecological systems and processes. Each of the 8 natural resources management regions (NRM regions) established under the NRM Act has plans, policies and programs to manage and protect native vegetation within their region.  

In addition to the major role all of the NRM regions have played in assessing our land’s vulnerability to a changing climate, thereby informing their own and statewide adaptation planning, Table 20 lists some of each region’s recent achievements.

Table 20: Selected achievements of each NRM region


Examples of activities and achievements

Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges

4,423 ha of native ecosystems recovered and managed for conservation

2,093 ha of land managed for water quality improvement

Education, research and partnerships

Alinytjara Wilurara

Community engagement – Adelaide Meets the Bush initiative

Threatened species projects and managing pests

Support co-management of public land and reserves

Eyre Peninsula

WildEyre landscape-scale collaborative conservation

Citizen science projects

Managing marine debris

Kangaroo Island

Glossy Black Cockatoo recovery project

Sustainable Production Program to raise awareness of soil acidity

Connecting people with nature – completion of the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail

Northern and Yorke

Education and awareness to reduce soil erosion

Landscape-scale conservation – Mount Remarkable to the Sea and Biodiversity Fund

Bushland Condition monitoring

SA Arid Lands

Bounceback landscape-scale conservation program

Conservation stewardship

Wild dog management

SA Murray–Darling Basin

River Murray water restoration programs and wetlands and floodplains projects

Native species projects

Soil moisture monitoring network

South East

Salinity management – Flows Restoration Project

Extension services – Sustainable Agriculture

Conservation of wetlands of international importance (Piccaninnie Ponds Wetlands)

Reforming natural resources management

At the time of preparing this report, the government announced the repeal of the Natural Resources Management Act and its intention to replace it with the Landscapes South Australia Act.

The reforms aim to build stronger partnerships with landholders and local communities, devolve resources and decision making to regions and focus on soil quality, pest control and water management.

Native Vegetation Act

The Native Vegetation Act 1991 includes preventing further loss of native vegetation, providing incentives and assistance to landholders to preserve, enhance and manage native vegetation and encouraging re-establishment of native vegetation on land where it has been cleared or degraded.

Major provisions of this Act include Heritage Agreements and the Native Vegetation Fund.

Heritage Agreements and the Native Vegetation Fund

The Heritage Agreement program started in 1980 from concern about excessive native vegetation clearance in SA’s agricultural region. The program pioneered off-park conservation in Australia. There are now 1,588 Heritage Agreements over 2,831 native vegetation sites ensuring long-term protection of approximately 1 million ha of SA’s original vegetation.

The Native Vegetation Fund is made up of payments by people who have cleared native vegetation and are required to provide a significant environmental benefit offset (Figures 49a and b). This money is then made available through grants to restore, revegetate or protect native vegetation. Offsets can consist of either payment or establishment of on-ground revegetation and protection.

soer2018_seb_haFigure 49a: SEB (ha)

soer2018_seb_dollarFigure 49b: SEB ($)

A review undertaken by the Native Vegetation Council of the Significant Environmental Benefit areas identified 95 as high priority for monitoring. A total of 31 were inspected and only 17 found to be fully compliant with the conditions of consent. The reasons why the remaining areas were either non-compliant or partially compliant included:

  • revegetation not undertaken or having failed
  • fencing not completed
  • stock access
  • inadequate pest control
  • unsigned Heritage Agreements
  • the area being of insufficient size.

Challenges in the use of offsets

Ethical, social, technical and governance challenges in the use of offsets are highlighted in a number of research papers. An evaluation of offsets in Australia indicates:

  • offsets are not appropriate in some circumstances, for example ‘no-go’ areas
  • offsets should be implemented before the clearance to which it relates
  • requirement to maintain offsets into perpetuity should be taken into account.

The conclusions in another paper are that offsets will only contribute to no net loss if:

  • clearing is restricted to vegetation that is
    • simplified enough so its functions can be restored elsewhere with confidence
    • unlikely to persist and is not practicable to restore irrespective of clearing.
  • any temporary loss in habitat between clearing and maturation of an offset, or differences between the habitat lost from clearing and gained through an offset, does not represent significant risk to a species, population or ecosystem process
  • there are gains of sufficient magnitude at the offset site to compensate for losses from clearing
  • best practice adaptive management is applied to offsets
  • offsets are in place for at least the same duration as the impacts from clearing
  • there is adequate compliance.

To overcome the challenge of a lack of expertise by proponents to implement offsets, SA has recently introduced changes to allow third party or credit offsets. One such accredited third party provider is Nature Foundation SA who have undertaken a number of projects on behalf of clearance proponents. 

Native Vegetation Council

The Native Vegetation Council is an independent body established through the Native Vegetation Act 1991. It monitors the overall condition of SA’s vegetation and makes decisions about a wide range of matters concerning native vegetation in SA.

The Native Vegetation Council's responsibilities include:

  • encouraging re-establishment of native vegetation on over-cleared land
  • managing the Heritage Agreement Scheme, which encourages protection of native bushland
  • funding and encouraging on-ground works that produce a significant environmental benefit (SEB) and maintaining an SEB Register
  • funding and encouraging native vegetation management research
  • monitoring changes to SA’s native vegetation landscape through the Change Detection Program
  • assessing applications and establishing conditions for clearance of native vegetation
  • producing an annual report.

The Native Vegetation Council endorsed the Guide to Native Vegetation Regulations on 11 April 2017, which explain the circumstances under which clearing of native vegetation is permitted, such as building new homes, managing farms, upgrading or establishing infrastructure or making recreational trails.

Interactions with other Acts

The permitted clearance provisions in the Native Vegetation Act 1991 and the Native Vegetation Regulations 2017 reflect the interaction between the Act and other land management legislation, such as the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016, Mining Act 1971, and Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000.

A number of submissions to the government’s parliamentary inquiry into biodiversity highlighted the interactions between legislation dealing with resources, development and native vegetation. It was noted that, under the current regulatory framework, biodiversity conservation is generally considered separately from, and often as being in competition with, development and economic objectives.

As such, its legislation tends to compete with legislation regulating activities such as change in land use and access to aquatic and underground resources (mineral, petroleum and geothermal energy).

The report from the inquiry quotes leading authority on environmental law, Dr Gerry Bates, as saying:

Biodiversity protection is affected by, and in fact relies on, discretionary exercises of power by virtually every statutory or government authority in Australia; and that responsibility for biodiversity protection is legally divided among, or conferred on, many of these authorities, creating a complex regulatory web that is often uncertain in its application, inefficient in its approach, and ineffectual in adequately protecting biodiversity. Neither the legislation, nor apparently government policy, displays any really coordinated or integrated approach to management of biodiversity; legislative functions appear to have been conferred on government agencies in an ad hoc manner without any clear strategic direction for promoting biodiversity conservation. – Dr Gerry Bates

The Environmental Defenders Office recommended creation of an independent statutory commission to develop and implement integrated biodiversity protection across all decision making.

The Eyre Peninsula NRM Board recommended provisions for biodiversity protection and restoration in landuse planning legislation.

The Environment, Resources and Development Committee made a number of recommendations, including the development of a state planning policy on biodiversity and for regional plans under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 to adequately provide for biodiversity.


Clearance of native vegetation for mining activities is subject to the Native Vegetation Act and Regulations. All operations (other than exploration) involving clearance of native vegetation must be undertaken in accordance with an approved management plan. For exploration, the SA Government publishes annual compliance reports that include information about offsets for clearance and incidents impacting native vegetation.

National Parks & Wildlife Act

The National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 provides for establishment and management of the system of protected areas and conservation of wildlife. This Act also establishes funds and governance arrangements for management of conservation areas and protection of wildlife.

In 2017, the terrestrial protected area system covered 28,195,000 ha (29%) of SA. About 30% of 382 Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia (IBRA) landscapes in SA are adequately protected. For purposes of trend and condition reporting, a landscape is considered adequately protected if 10% of the landscape is included in the system of formally protected areas. For example, based on the figures in Table 21, a total of 50% of landscapes on Kangaroo Island are 10% or more protected.

Table 21: Proportion adequately protected by region


Proportion adequately
protected (%)

Alinytjara Wilurara


Kangaroo Island


Eyre Peninsula


Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges


SA Arid Lands


South East


SA Murray–Darling Basin


Northern and Yorke



soer2018_nrm_regionsFigure 50: NRM regions

Inclusion in conservation areas does not guarantee protection. The first SOER in 1988 described the impacts of recreational activities in natural areas, including habitat destruction by vehicles and overuse of wood in popular camping areas. Since then, research and investment in nature-based tourism and activities have strived to find a balance between protection and community enjoyment of our protected areas.

Conservation on private land, such as that managed by Nature Foundation SA, Bush Heritage Australia, Birdlife Australia and Australian Wildlife Conservancy, plays an important role. Of the total area under protection, 697,323 ha is in private nature reserves. Current categories within the system of private and public protected areas are shown in Table 22.

Table 22: Private and public protection areas in South Australia



Size (ha)


Wildlife Sanctuary (Arkaroola)


Conservation Parks


Heritage Agreements


Indigenous Protected Areas



Conservation Parks


Conservation Reserves


Game Reserves


Native Forests


National Parks


Recreation Parks


Regional Reserves


Wilderness Areas


It is also important to acknowledge the role of rangelands in conservation, noting that pastoral properties make up of 40% of land in South Australia that features a considerable coverage of native vegetation that has important ecological significance, including being home to many rare and endangered native species. Pastoral properties are managed through leases under the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act 1989 that require regular assessment of land condition to ensure adequate protection of biodiversity.

Case studies

Gluepot Reserve

‘A vision for the future of environmental conservation and sustainability’

Gluepot Reserve is Australia's largest community managed and operated conservation reserve. Situated 64 km from the River Murray in SA’s Riverland, the reserve is managed and operated entirely by volunteers. Some 54,000 ha in size, it is part of the largest block of intact mallee left in Australia. As a result, the reserve is able to support viable populations of 22 nationally threatened species of birds, 53 species of reptiles and 12 species of bats.

soer2018_gluepot_scarletchested_parrotFavourable conditions at Gluepot have seen the Scarlet-chested parrot breeding,
allowing researchers a rare insight into its ecology and life history

To ensure adequate protection in the reserve, species and their needs are continuously monitored and researched, pests are controlled and appropriate fire regimes are maintained. By successfully combining biodiversity conservation, scientific monitoring, environmental education, research and ecotourism, Gluepot Reserve provides an international model of sustainable conservation.

Gluepot Reserve is protected in perpetuity under a Heritage Agreement, is part of the National Reserve System, is on the Register of the National Estate and is further protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 as 'critical habitat' (for the Black-eared Miner). It is the first area of land on mainland Australia to have achieved this protection.


Workshop held at Gluepot for its volunteers

Volunteers are the lifeblood of the reserve and come from all states of Australia and overseas. From purchase of the reserve in July 1997 to the end of 2015, volunteers have donated 472,000 hours. The average hours volunteered has been about 28,000 hours per annum. This increased to 38,767 in 2016. Volunteer positions are booked out 3 years in advance.

Gluepot Reserve is the recipient of 42 national and international awards in the fields of science, conservation, environment, ecotourism, health and the built environment, including 7 Landcare awards.

Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth community regeneration project


The Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth Revegetation Project was a key component of SA’s $610-million Murray Futures program, funded by the Australian Government’s Water for the Future initiative.

Replanting the area with native plants helps:

  • create habitats for native animals, birds and fish
  • improve habitat connectivity between water and land via the planting of sedges in the water
  • restore native vegetation communities
  • tackle acidification by adding carbon to the soil
  • stabilise the soil
  • reduce shoreline erosion.

This helps the region to be more resilient and able to better adapt to changing water levels in the future.

Why the region needed help

This region, which includes the Coorong Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, features plants, birds and animals found nowhere else in the world. However, being the final leg of the River Murray, it has also been the most heavily impacted by drought and over-allocation of water from the river.

Following the 2006–10 drought, the region was on the brink of environmental collapse. As the water fell to historically low levels, acid sulfate soils were exposed and vegetation died, destroying important habitats. There were significant impacts on the communities in this region, including water unfit for human consumption, industries under threat and a decline in employment.

Community is key

The community has been key to the success of this program. They have coordinated a network of nurseries to grow native plants and have planted more than 1.3 million plants. The Ngarrindjeri have planted another 390,000 and commercial planting has resulted in 3.4 million more native plants in the ground. Sites include the Coorong National Park, local council reserves and private properties.


The project ran for 6 years (2010–16) and covered Lake Alexandrina, Lake Albert, Southern Coorong, Finniss River, Currency Creek, Tookayerta Creek and Hindmarsh Island. Subsequent monitoring confirmed a 70% overall survival rate of plantings.