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Policy and management response

The importance of our land is reflected in the scale of public and private investment in caring for it over many years.


Among the very first legislation to be developed in SA was the Thistle Act 1852 (later expanded to include other species) and the Dog Act 1852, both aimed at the control of pests. This was followed by the Rabbit Destruction Act 1875 and the Vermin Destruction Act 1882, with similar objectives.

Land degradation first featured in legislation with the Sand Drift Act 1923, which was the first to address soil erosion. This was followed by the Soil Conservation Act 1939, which gave the relevant minister the power to issue orders, resume land as a reserve, prohibit destruction of trees and establish a soil conservation committee. Further amendments over time allowed for the establishment of local boards – the precursor for the natural resources management (NRM) boards that we have today.

Over the past 30 years, SOERs have acknowledged the contribution of increased formal conservation status and targeted recovery initiatives to help protect our land, both public and private. Table 19 lists a selection of key actions since the 1970s (also see Figure 48).

A selection of key actions since the 1970s

Table 19: Key actions since the 1970s




1972: Report of the Committee on Environment which led to establishment of Department of Environment and Conservation on 28 February 1972

1976: SA Government committee report on extent of vegetation clearance throughout SA


1980: Heritage Agreements introduced to protect high conservation native vegetation on private land, supported by financial incentives

1983: Statutory controls on vegetation clearance through regulations under the Planning Act 1982

1985: Native Vegetation Management Act 1985 established the Native Vegetation Authority and enabled compensation for protecting native vegetation

1986: Animal and Plant Control (Agricultural Protection and Other Purposes) Act 1986 integrated two control systems (pest plants and pest animals)

1989: Soil Conservation and Land Care Act 1989 provided an expanded local board system, covered all forms of land degradation and was based on wide community involvement.

Note: Soil conservation, and plant and animal control, remained separately managed until the Natural Resources Management Act 2004

Greater environmental awareness in the 1980s also encouraged:

  • more extensive planting of trees on farms and improvements in farm management and support to care for the land
  • expanded research into SA flora and fauna
  • targeted programs such as kangaroo management
  • inventories of natural assets such as wetlands and floodplains
  • expanding the reserve system to also include Riverland wetlands
  • land capability mapping
  • dryland salinity programs, later including the CRC for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity and the Upper South East Dryland Salinity and Flood Management Program
  • Rural tree planting and the State Tree Centre.


1991: Native Vegetation Act 1991 included sunset clauses to draw any further broad-acre clearance and compensation to a close

1993: Development Act 1993 included requirements for environmental standards in planning policies

Other land management actions in the 1990s included:

Post- 2000


Natural Resources Management Act 2004 – based on the principles of ecologically sustainable development, brought together integrated management of water, soil, plants and animals, and established skills-based boards. It also provided the vehicle for implementation of national programs, such as Caring for Country through state and regional NRM plans

Publication of the first major report on the condition of agricultural land in SA


No Species Loss Nature Conservation Strategy, which is a framework protecting and conserving native species, ecological communities and habitats

Future Farm Industries CRC (2007–14) – included development of perennial plant-based farming options


First State NRM Plan – a policy for the overarching management of SA’s natural resources. It provided a framework for all natural resources management initiatives, including regional NRM plans and agency activities. The second plan (for the period 2012–17) was reviewed in 2017 and not yet completed at the time of preparing this report.

NatureLinks – a landscape-based approach to biodiversity conservation, including habitat restoration, in five biodiversity corridors

Threatened species recovery planning – coordinated efforts to conserve threatened species and ecological communities 

Regional Biodiversity Plans – completed for all major agricultural regions and provided a regional focus for biodiversity conservation

Million Trees Program, which became part of the national 20 Million Trees program to recreate urban and peri-urban natural habitat using plant species grown from local provenance seed from the appropriate vegetation community

Operation Bounceback – a Flinders Ranges program to protect native species persisting in the region and make it possible to reintroduce some species that have become locally extinct

Ark on Eyre – a framework for biodiversity conservation and animal and plant control on Eyre Peninsula

Current management actions

Upper South East Dryland Salinity and Flood Mitigation Program allowing landholders to offset drainage levy payment by entering into management agreements to improve biodiversity. This secured over 4,400 ha of land for conservation management 

Habitat reconstruction and restoration projects – River Murray Forest Project, Ecological Restoration Project, Kangaroo Island Nationally Threatened Plant Project, Northern Murray Mallee Landscape Restoration, Para Woodlands Project, Nature Conservancy’s Conservation Action Planning Tool and investigations into carbon and biodiversity markets

NRM programs and alignment between regional NRM plans and development plans

Fire management program and policy

Fast-track mapping of native vegetation areas to inform regional land use and planning processes

Threatened species recovery plans, for example for the Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby

Biosecurity Strategy and Intergovernmental Agreement on biosecurity

30-Year Plan policies and targets include protection of environmentally significant land, a hierarchy of environmental assets to be protected, policies to avoid and minimise biodiversity impacts and assessment of environmental significance in structure plans for new growth areas

State Seed Conservation Centre that helps to protect SA’s threatened plant species from extinction and support restoration of habitats

Review of environmental offsets and incentives.


soer2018_biodiversity_timeline_Page_1Figure 48: Timeline for biodiversity management in South Australia