Frequently asked questions

How does a covenant protect my land?
A covenant protects the conservation values of your land beyond your lifetime by registering an agreement between you and the department on the land title of your property. This agreement sets down appropriate management practices, so that future landowners respect the conservation values that you want to protect.

Does a covenant mean that I lose control over my land?
No. A covenant is an agreement between you and the department, and you play an important role in deciding the conditions of the covenant. You continue to own and manage your land in a manner which will not degrade its conservation values. In reality, a covenant allows you to protect your land long after you cease to own it.

How long does it last?
Most covenants are designed to last in perpetuity, although a fixed-term covenant can be negotiated in certain circumstances. Remember, to be eligible for a covenant, the land has to have values that will persist over time. Placing a covenant over land that does not have this potential, or changing the land use after a period of time, will not achieve lasting conservation at a landscape scale.

Can a covenant be removed?
It is possible to release or vary the terms of the covenant where both the landowner and the department agree. This decision is not taken lightly and both parties would need to provide very good reasons to vary the covenant. Should agreement not be reached, the issue can be resolved on application to a judge or court.

What does it cost?
The department pays for the costs of establishing voluntary Nature Conservation Covenants. These costs usually include staff time to prepare and negotiate the documents, checking the covenant with other agencies, checking the covenant with the State Solicitor's Office, and lodgement of the covenant for registration on title at Landgate. Where the covenant is required as a condition of subdivision or other development approval, the costs for placing the covenant (in the order of $5000 - $6000) may be recovered from the landowner, especially where the development results in a level of detriment to the nature conservation values on the property.

Are any incentives available to Covenantors?
The department can make up to $500 available for a second legal opinion for voluntary Nature Conservation Covenants, should the landowner want this. On a case-by-case basis, funding for fencing and other management activities may be provided to landowners with a registered covenant. Where a covenant is placed over an area of land that could otherwise have been developed, a reduction in the valuation of the land may result, which can reduce the rates payable on the land.

Landowners entering into conservation covenants may also be eligible for both income tax concession and special treatment of capital gain tax. Certain criteria must be met to obtain these deductions and landowners should seek advice from the Australian Taxation Office and their tax agent.

Can I build on covenanted land?
Yes, if you allow for it in your covenant. The covenant can provide for a building envelope to contain a single dwelling, gardens, and the usual outbuildings, if these are to be located within the covenant area. Such development will be located through mutual agreement so as to minimise the impact on the conservation values of the land, and its future management.

Can I keep a pet?
Yes, certainly. Some landowners allow for up to two dogs in their covenant. Where a house is located within the covenanted area, cats may be prohibited unless permanently restrained within an enclosure. This is because they stray at night and kill native wildlife, however sometimes existing cats are allowed to remain until they die.

Does a covenant affect the value of my property?
Normally the placement of the covenant on title has little effect on land values, since land-use generally remains unaltered. However, where a covenant is placed in an area that could otherwise have been developed, there is some possibility of a reduction in valuation. If this occurs, the land may be eligible for a reduction in rates. Overseas experience suggests that a covenant may lead to a slight increase in the surrounding land value because of the superior land management practices that often result. It is recognised that the property may take longer to sell since the number of prospective purchasers could be reduced. For example, the property will not attract people wanting to graze or develop the covenanted land, but instead will attract mainly sympathetic purchasers who simply wish to enjoy an area of bushland which has been recognised as having conservation value. It all depends on the particular circumstances of the property, and anyone concerned with the potential impact should consult a qualified land valuer.

What land can be covenanted?
Covenants can be used to protect any natural areas such as bushland and wetlands that have conservation value, and that you want to protect for the future.

How does the department decide if my land is suitable for a conservation covenant?
Generally, conservation covenants are appropriate for bushland that has high conservation value, and has the potential to persist into the future with minimal management. To decide this, the following are used as a guide:

  • the degree of disturbance (eg. from weeds, fire, fragmentation, grazing);
  • how well the vegetation types are represented in the surrounding areas;
  • the diversity of native flora and fauna and whether there is habitat for threatened species;
  • its value as a buffer to another bushland area, or as a wildlife corridor;
  • the size and shape of the area;
  • the extent of native vegetation or natural areas within the local landscape;
  • the presence of weeds or feral animals; 
  • the management required to maintain or reinstate the ecological integrity of the site; and
  • the future management intent of the owner.

Please note that your bushland does not necessarily have to meet each of these criteria, and that each site will be assessed on its own merits. Where a conservation covenant is not appropriate, for whatever reason, we will try to suggest other programs that may be able to provide assistance.

Is my whole property covered by a covenant?
It depends on what you want. A covenant can cover a whole property, or it can just be for a single patch of bush. In some cases there may be different zones for a property with different restrictions for each zone. The covenant can be flexible provided that nature conservation is not compromised.

Who is responsible for managing a covenanted area?
You, as the landowner, are responsible for land management. The department can provide advice on most aspects of land management, including flora and fauna management and weed and vermin control. As part of the covenant process, the department will work with you to develop management guidelines for your property, and help with ongoing management and monitoring advice.

Can I use machinery and animals for management?
Yes, if it is agreed that it can be allowed for in your covenant so as not to cause a loss of conservation value. Conditions applying to the use of machinery and animals for management are usually included in the mutually agreed management guidelines prepared for your land, and will address issues such as preventing disease and degradation. In any allowed management practice, the overall conservation values of the covenanted land must be maintained.

Will a covenant affect my rates?
Once a covenant has been registered on a property's title, an application can be made to the Valuer General's Office to revalue the property. If the value of the property varies as a result of the covenant, then an application can be made by the landowner to the relevant local government authority for a rate variation at that local government authority's discretion. Note, in some peri-urban situations, the covenant may in fact result in an increased valuation due to a desirability for lifestyle blocks of conservation value.

Does a covenant affect my neighbours?
Because a covenant is an agreement between you and the department, it does not directly involve your neighbours. Any effects on neighbours are generally positive since covenanted land is usually well managed to control weeds and vermin and maintain landscape protection. However, should an issue arise where certain activities on an adjoining property may threaten the natural values of the covenanted land (for example, stock or blown rubbish), the department can act as an advocate on your behalf to have these activities rectified.

Can I be certain that a new landowner will respect the covenant?
The covenant is registered on the land title, and hence any prospective purchaser of the land should be aware of its existence and implications. Consequently, covenants generally attract sympathetic purchasers. The department will advise all new landowners of the terms of your covenant as soon as any actual or impending change of property ownership becomes known. Additionally, covenant staff can talk to prospective owners prior to sale to explain the covenant and management responsibilities.

What happens if someone breaches a covenant?
Under the Stewardship Program, all covenant sites are visited at least once every three years, and more often if the land changes hands. If the department learns of any transgressions of the covenant, it will require the landowner to repair the damage. If necessary, the department may take legal action against a delinquent landowner to seek an injunction or damages for restoration. However, this is a last resort and is only used if negotiation has failed.

Can a covenant stop mining on my land?
A covenant does not provide immunity from mining legislation nor other legislation such as that applying to bushfire control. However, public authorities generally have regard to covenants when developments are proposed, and, in some cases, they have provided special assistance to covenantors. The department may act as an advocate on behalf of the landowner, and will object to, or seek to modify, development proposals that are likely to damage the conservation values of the land.

Will the department take a long-term interest in my land?
The department has a statutory responsibility for the conservation of flora and fauna in Western Australia, and regards conservation covenants as making a significant contribution to flora and fauna conservation in conjunction with formal conservation reserves. For this reason the department has a long-term interest in helping you with maintaining the conservation values of your land. The department achieves this through the Stewardship Program, which provides management advice, regular contact, advocacy and enforcement as a last resort.