Statutory environmental covenants

subtropica rainforest volcanics above 600m binna burra

During the development process, statutory environmental covenants are sometimes placed on properties to protect and enhance the environmental features of private property.

A statutory environmental covenant is a legally binding written agreement. These agreements are entered into between a Covenantor (the property owner) and the Covenantee (Council of the City of Gold Coast or other government body). A covenant is registered against the title and survey plan of a property, and administered under the Land Titles Act 1994 (Qld).

While most covenants are registered to protect environmental features of a property, the types of covenants include:

  • environmental
  • domestic animal exclusion
  • onsite effluent
  • flood storage landscape amenity.

More information

Refer to the following frequently asked questions or call us on 07 5582 8215.

Frequently asked questions

How did a covenant get registered on my property?

During the development assessment process, the City of Gold Coast identifies areas of constraints, strategic and environmental value in accordance with the City Plan. To protect these areas, conditions of approval may have been included on a decision notice (i.e. rules and requirements for the development), requiring the registration of a statutory covenant on a property, or future properties.

Alternatively, a statutory covenant may have been registered on a property through a Voluntary Conservation Agreement as part of the City's Conservation Partnerships Program.

Where can I find the decision notice that required the registration of a covenant?

You can search and access decision notices on the City's Property Development Online service, commonly known as PD Online. Alternatively, you can order a copy of a decision notice from the City for a fee by completing the 'Request for Copy of Decision Notice or Plan of Development' form (see Forms & applications section above).

What is a Covenant Management Plan?

A Covenant Management Plan is a plan specifically designed for environmental covenants, to direct developers and landowners as to how best to manage their particular covenant.

It contains details of the location and size of a covenant, species found within the covenant, a rehabilitation management plan for the covenant and the required maintenance activities to maintain the covenant. It also clearly outlines the obligations and activities of the landowner.

What is a Covenant Agreement?

A Covenant Agreement is the official signed documents used in registering a covenant. It includes the executed covenant document and the City of Gold Coast Standard Terms Document – Covenant Environment Preservation (Document Number 711772071).

The Standard Terms Document includes the purpose of the covenant, landowner's obligations to maintain the covenant and other legal provisions. Please be aware that some environmental covenant agreements have addendums and/or additional wording.

Where can I get a copy of my Covenant Agreement or Covenant Management Plan?

The City is committed to assisting landowners in understanding their obligations for land management within covenant areas. As such, the City provides Covenant Management Plans to landowners for free.

To obtain a free copy of your Covenant Management Plan, please call Environment Planning on 07 5582 8072.

Contact Titles Queensland to obtain a copy of your specific Covenant Agreement.

I have a Covenant Area A and Covenant Area B on my survey plan. What does this mean?

If your survey plan shows a 'COV A' and 'COV B', this means you have 2 different covenants on your property located in different areas. This may also mean you have 2 different management requirements for each covenant area.

For example Covenant A may prohibit all activities, however Covenant B may allow clearing for bushfire management. Your Covenant Management Plan and Covenant Agreement will detail the management requirements of each covenant on the property.

It is the landowner's responsibility to check their Covenant Management Plan for necessary maintenance requirements.

Can I build on covenanted land?

Generally, covenants are placed on properties to control development and protect environmental values. Therefore building is generally restricted within a covenanted area.

For environmental covenants, typical agreements with the City state the following activities must not be undertaken within covenant areas:

  • clearing, lopping or removal of any native plants, whether existing at the date of the approval or planted pursuant to conditions of the approval
  • erection of any fixtures or improvements, including buildings or structures
  • construction of any trails or paths
  • depositing of any fill, soil, rock, rubbish, ashes, garbage, waste or other material foreign to the protected area
  • keeping or permitting the entry of domestic animals or any other animals that are not indigenous to the covenant area
  • performance of any other acts which may have detrimental impact on the values of the covenant area.

While most agreements will reflect the above, some may allow for certain activities such as bushfire management within a covenant area. It is your responsibility as a land owner to check the Covenant Management Plan and Covenant Agreement to confirm your restrictions.

For other covenants within the city, it is recommended that you obtain a copy of the original development decision notice. You can search and access decision notices on the City's Property Development Online service, commonly known as PD Online.

Alternatively, you can order a copy of a decision notice from the City for a fee by completing the 'Request for Copy of Decision Notice or Plan of Development' form (see Forms & applications section above).

Can I remove weeds or ‘clean up’ my property?

To ensure the viability of a conservation area, environmental weeds will need to be managed. In fact, most Covenant Management Plans and Covenant Agreements require landowners to manage their conservation areas to ensure no degradation of the land occurs.

While landowners are encouraged to manage weeds in their covenant area, it is important to correctly identify which plants are weeds and which plants are native. The South East Queensland Restoration Framework and Guidelines provides a list of commonly encountered weeds and how to correctly treat them.

Alternatively, please visit the environmental education page to access workshops that can help you improve your weed identification and treatment skills.

When landowners refer to 'cleaning up' their property they often also refer to the removal of fallen logs, branches or trees in their covenant area, or even perhaps the growth of native plants.

A ground cover of native plants, logs and fallen branches actually provide fauna with increased habitat and shelter options and is commonly known as increasing habitat complexity. Generally speaking, the higher the habitat complexity, the greater the biodiversity and/or abundance of fauna.

While some landowners may view this habitat complexity as being 'messy', it actually provides greater habitat opportunities for fauna in the area, and as such, landowners are encouraged to leave these features within their covenant wherever possible.

It is the landowner's responsibility to check their bushfire management plan for necessary maintenance requirements.

Is my whole property covered by a covenant?

Typically an environmental covenant will only be registered over the area of the property that contains strategic and environmental values. Domestic animal exclusion covenants however may be registered over the entirety of a property, to exclude animals completely from a lot. Your property survey plan will illustrate the extent and location of a covenant on your property.

How does a covenant protect my land?

By registering an environmental covenant on the land title of a property and not with an individual landowner, a covenant protects the conservation values of a property in perpetuity. The Covenant Agreement and Covenant Management Plan also detail management practices and obligations to be undertaken by any present and future landowners to ensure the conservation values of the property are properly maintained over time.

Does a covenant mean that I lose control over my land?

While a covenant is an agreement between you and the City, you continue to own and manage your land in accordance with your Covenant Management Plan and in a way in which will not degrade its conservation values.

Can City Officers access my property to assess the condition of the covenant area?

Yes, most covenant agreements allow the City to gain access to a covenant on private property to examine or inspect the quality of the covenant area. While the City has the right to enter private property to conduct inspections, City Officers will give the landowner 24 hours' notice to enter the property and will only enter between the hours of 8.30am and 5.30pm.

How long does a covenant last?

Covenants are designed to last in perpetuity.

How long does a covenant need to be managed for?

Land owners must manage and maintain covenants while they own the land with a registered covenant. Each new land owner is also required to manage and maintain covenants; therefore covenants are maintained in perpetuity.

Can a covenant be removed?

It is possible to release or vary the terms of the covenant where both the landowner and City agree. This decision is not taken lightly and both parties would need to provide a good justification to vary the covenant. Should an agreement not be reached, the issue can be resolved on application to the Planning and Environment Court.

Where can I learn more about ecological restoration and land management practices?

There are currently several workshops held by the City that are centred on land management and restoration activities. The City is also developing a support program for property owners with covenants to assist them in meeting their obligations under their Covenant Agreement and Covenant Management Plan. To learn more about what programs may available to you please visit our Environment education webpage.

There are also several resources available to landowners online including Land for Wildlife notes. These resources can be downloaded for free.

Where can I find information about plants (flora) and animals (fauna) that may be using my covenant area?

The City currently maintains a database of all studies, sightings and records of flora and fauna in the city. The Gold Coast Flora and Fauna Database is also an interactive resource which enables a user to browse records that are located within a specific area.

Your Covenant Management Plan will also contain information about species found within and around the area of your covenant.

Are there any Council programs that provide incentives for landowners with covenants?

The City's Conservation Partnerships Program may be able to assist you to protect wildlife habitat on your property and restore bushland that has been cleared or disturbed. It incorporates 3 voluntary schemes with different levels of support. Please visit the Landholder support programs page to find out if you or your property is eligible for inclusion in one of their programs.

Can I keep a pet?

This depends on the type of covenant registered over your property. Some covenants are imposed specifically for excluding all domestic animals, while some covenants restrict animals from particular areas on the property. Generally speaking however, no animals are allowed within a covenant area irrespective of whether the covenant is for environmental protection or for domestic animal exclusion. This is because domestic animals such as cats and dogs directly impact on the native wildlife of Australia.

If the covenant on your property is categorised as an environmental preservation covenant, no animals are allowed to access the covenant area. However, they may be allowed in other areas such as the residential dwelling or areas external to the covenant provided they are restricted from entering the covenant.

Please locate a copy of your Covenant Management Plan and Covenant Agreement to confirm whether you are allowed to keep a pet on your property. Where required, please ensure you keep domestic animals on your property restrained in accordance with Council's Local Law 12 and Subordinate Local Law 12 for Animal Management.

Who is responsible for managing a covenanted area?

You, as the landowner, are responsible for land management in the covenant area. In addition to other mentioned resources, your Covenant Management Plan provides a guide to how best manage the covenant area.

Can I use machinery and animals for management?

In most instances, machinery and animals are excluded from environmental covenant areas. This is because machinery and animals are known to have a negative impact on conservation values. In some circumstances however, bushfire management activities such as slashing or maintaining grass heights may be allowed within a covenant area.

This is usually identified in the Covenant Management Plan and/or the Conditions of Approval of the originating development. However, any allowed management practice must maintain the overall conservation values of the covenanted land.

Does a covenant affect my neighbours?

No, a covenant is an agreement between the land owner and the City and does not involve neighbouring properties.

Can I be certain that a new landowner will respect the covenant?

As covenants are registered on a land title, any future purchaser of the property should become aware of its existence and obligations for land management. Any failure to comply with the obligations of the Covenant Agreement will be assessed by the City.

What happens if someone breaches a covenant?

Any breach within a covenant area will be actioned by the City's Development Compliance unit where a Notice to Remedy may be issued, requiring the landowner to repair the damage or non-compliance via rehabilitation or remedial replanting work. Where a landowner fails to rectify the non-compliance, the City may enter onto the property to carry out such work that is reasonably necessary to remedy the landowner's damage.

Where the City has to carry out works to rectify the non-compliance, the City may recover the cost of such works from the landowner as a debt. The City may also exercise its enforcement powers under the Planning Act 2016 where a landowner fails to meet their obligations under a covenant agreement or conditions of approval.