Home » Voluntary Conservation Covenants
Written by: Rachel Gallacher


We are fortunate to live in an ecologically significant region, boasting three back-to-back UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. The biospheres stretch from the edges of the Sunshine Coast, through Noosa, up to K’gari and the Fraser Coast, a region of approximately 222 kilometers.[1] While the biosphere cluster contains multiple national parks and reserves, a large percentage of ecologically significant environment is situated on privately owned land.

The Queensland state government recognises private landholders have the power to protect and improve those environments for future generations. To this end, landholders can enter into Conservation Covenants with a Covenant Scheme Provider. The Covenant is registered over the ecologically significant environment (“ESE”), protecting it in perpetuity.

When ESE’s are protected by covenant, local plant and animal species thrive, threatened species have an enhanced survival rate, fragmentated habitat can be consolidated and our region’s overall biodiversity is improved.

[1] https://www.usc.edu.au/about/unisc-news/news-archive/2022/november/only-place-in-the-world-with-three-biospheres-side-by-side


What is a Voluntary Conservation Agreement?

A Voluntary Conservation Covenant (“VCA”) is a voluntary agreement between a landholder and a Covenant Scheme Provider (such as a local council) that creates an obligation by a deed entered into by the parties. The VCA must meet certain requirements prescribed by the Land Title Act 1994 (Qld) in order to be registerable.[1]

The VCA is registered on the property title by the Scheme Provider pursuant to section 97A(3)(b) of the Land Title Act.[2] A VCA can impose a positive duty or can be restrictive, meaning the landholder cannot undertake certain activities or actions as specified in the covenant terms (such as clearing or negatively interfering with the ESE). The land itself remains under the control of the private landholder, but the ESE is protected by the VCA. This means that if the landholder sells the property, the incoming landholder is bound by the terms of the covenant, creating protection that lasts in perpetuity.

[1] Land Title Act 1994 (Qld) s 97A(3)(b).

[2] Land Title Act 1994 (Qld).


What are the landholder’s rights under a VCA?

Under a VCA, the property remains under the landholders ownership and control. Certain areas of the property can remain exempt from the VCA, such as areas used for farming, grazing or open space. A VCA does not grant the public the right to access the property.

A VCA is entirely voluntary and can be released by the Scheme Provider upon registration of a Form which releases the covenant.[1] Of course – the purpose of a VCA is to protect ESE’s in perpetuity, so the longer the covenant remains, the longer the ESE is protected.

[1] Ibid s 97D.


Support for landholders

When entering into a VCA, a landholder is supported by the Scheme Provider in protecting and enhancing the ESE. Support varies depending on the individual Scheme Provider. Active support can include assisting landholders survey and manage the ESE. Each VCA is unique, flexible and takes into account the particular needs of each landholder. Financial assistance and incentives are available to landholders which can be used towards engagement of environmental experts or in some cases as a rate rebate.


VCA Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for a VCA, Scheme Providers will consider:

  1. If the property has an area of ESE, such as remnant rainforests or old growth forests.
  2. If the ESE is home to rare or threatened species.
  3. If the ESE is part of an existing wildlife corridor.
  4. If the ESE buffers an existing national park or reserve.


VCA Tax Requirements

Landholders may be eligible for a concessional Capital Gains Tax treatment if the VCA has contributed to the property’s capital proceeds. If a landholder does not receive any money, property or material benefit from the VCA, they may be eligible for income tax deductions and concessional Capital Gains Tax Treatment.

It is important for landholders to seek independent tax advice with respect to their rights and obligations under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.


Contact Us

If you are considering entering into a VCA and wish to discuss how it will effect your rights as a landholder, contact us today.


The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of a professional. This information does not consider your personal circumstances and may not reflect the most current legal developments. Should you need advice, please contact our firm for targeted information relating to personal your situation.