A key function of the Commissioner of Soil and Land Conservation (the Commissioner) is preventing and mitigating land degradation, including erosion, salinity, flooding, eutrophication and loss of vegetation. This function includes responding to situations where management threatens or causes land degradation, as well as compliance with drainage regulations, covenants and soil conservation notices.
Members of the public who wish to report land degradation or drainage believed to have been carried out in breach of the Act or regulations may contact any district office of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development or the Office of the Commissioner on +61 (0)8 9368 3282.
Land management complaints should include details of the land ownership, the location, nature and extent of the particular problem and relevant dates to assist the Commissioner's inquiries. The details of persons lodging complaints are strictly confidential.
The Commissioner promotes compliance with the Act, which is consistent with the department’s compliance, enforcement and prosecution policy. The Commissioner registers and investigates all complaints lodged with the office and where land management problems are identified, the Commissioner will offer advice to assist the landowner to remedy the situation. Failing to carry out remedial work may result in a soil conservation notice being issued.
A soil conservation notice is a legally binding directive for a landowner to take certain management steps to mitigate the identified problems. It is usually a measure of last resort, although it may occasionally be issued as first step where a situation is critical. All notices can be appealed.
Where breaches of the regulations are alleged, the Commissioner may:
- issue a warning letter where the matter is minor
- issue a soil conservation notice, usually after due warning
- prosecute, where a prima facie case exists and it is in the public interest.
A two-year statute of limitations applies to offences under the Act. Penalties for individuals are $2000 for a breach of the regulations and $3000 for non-compliance with a soil conservation notice. Fines may be increased five-fold where companies are convicted of such offences.