Trust For Nature

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are a list of Frequently asked Questions and Answers.

If you have a question that isn't listed below then click here and we'll endeavour to get back to you.

  • What is a conservation covenant?

    A conservation covenant is a permanent, legally-binding agreement placed on a property's title to ensure native plants and wildlife on the property are protected forever. The agreement is voluntary, negotiated between Trust for Nature and each individual landowner.

  • What is the Conservation Covenant Program?

    The Conservation Covenant program is one of the many ways Trust for Nature works to protect biodiversity on private land. Trust for Nature achieved its first conservation covenant in 1987. There are now more than 1000 conservation covenants across the state, protecting more than 44,000 hectares of Victoria.

  • Why are Stewardship Program visits important?

    Visits from Trust for Nature staff maintains links with covenantors and helps to provide ongoing information on land management. They provide an opportunity for the Trust to monitor the overall health of the native vegetation, document any changes to the covenanted area, identify any threats and assist landowners to address these trends. During scheduled visits a Trust officer will develop a management plan and monitor the properties condition against it.

  • How often are Stewardship Program visits done?

    Trust for Nature aims to visit each covenant at least once every five years. Some covenants require more frequent visits. In these cases the frequency will be negotiated with the landowner.

  • What is the Stewardship Program?

    Trust for Nature’s Stewardship Program supports the Covenant Program – the Covenant Program establishes the covenant and the Stewardship Program provides ongoing support to the landowner to ensure the success of the covenant into the future. Any landowner who enters into a conservation covenant will automatically enter the Stewardship Program. The program provides scheduled visits and a property specific management plan to assist a landowner in the management of their properties conservation values.

  • What does a covenant prohibit?

    A standard covenant generally prohibits: native vegetation removal; introduction of any non-indigenous vegetation; subdivision; grazing by livestock; deterioration in the quality, flow or quantity of water; introduction of any non-indigenous fauna i.e. pets; removal of wood or timber; removal or disturbance of soil or rocks, including cultivation; the application of fertiliser; pasture establishment, and recreational use of trail bikes and other vehicles. However, these standard restrictions can be modified in certain circumstances where the Trust is satisfied that the conservation of the land will not be adversely affected. Please see the ‘Managing covenant obligations’ leaflet for further information on interpreting your covenant obligations.

  • What land can be covenanted?

    Trust for Nature covenants land of high-conservation significance. The property may form part of an important wildlife corridor, or act as a buffer to a neighbouring State or National Park. The Trust for Nature Board of Trustees consider each covenant and take into account factors such as the diversity of native flora and fauna, the presence of rare and endangered species, the size and shape of the area, weed infestation and the management required to maintain the ecological integrity of the site.

  • What costs are involved with conservation covenants?

    For covenants voluntarily entered into by a landowner, the Trust currently meets all costs associated with the negotiation, drafting and registration of a conservation covenant. For covenants which are agreed to meet a commercial purpose (such as to satisfy a planning permit) the costs are negotiated on a case-by-case basis. As the costs of establishing a conservation covenant are significant, the Trust welcomes donations to enable it to continue to operate its full range of conservation activities.

  • How long does a conservation covenant last?

    Once established a covenant lasts in perpetuity. Covenants are placed on a property's title so remain regardless of any change in property ownership. Only in extreme and highly unusual circumstances will a conservation covenant be removed. In such cases, the Trust and the Minister must agree to the removal of the covenant.

  • How is the Stewardship Program funded?

    Trust for Nature receives some Federal Government funding for its Stewardship Program but relies on the general public's generous donations to continue this important service. Please consider a donation to Trust for Nature's Stewardship Program Fund today.

  • Do conservation covenants cover the whole property?

    Every covenant is unique. Some conservation covenants cover the whole property, some only part of a property. But all covenanted properties have an area of protected land where native plants vegetation is protected by set conditions. Other covenants may also have an area of modified land or farmland, which have fewer restrictions. Most covenants have a domestic area for a dwelling and related outbuildings.

  • Who is responsible for managing a covenanted area?

    Covenants are voluntary so the landowner continues to own and manage their land. Trust for Nature provides expert management advice through the Stewardship Program. This advice includes native plant and wildlife management and weed and pest animal control. Trust for Nature's Stewardship Program can also direct landowners to grants and incentives to help manage their properties.

  • What is the significance of a Covenant Management Plan?

    Part of the Stewardship Program, is the preparation of a Management Plan for each covenanted property. This plan is prepared in consultation between the landowner and the Trust. Once it has been agreed by both Parties, the plan forms part of the covenant, and landowners are legally obligated to manage their covenant in accordance with the recommendations of the plan. Each plan is designed to establish an easy to understand and implement management structure for the land protected under a covenant. After each stewardship visit the implementation of the plan is assessed and adjustments can be made with the agreement of both the Trust and landowner.

  • Can a conservation covenant be changed?

    Trust for Nature will only consider changes to the terms of a conservation covenant if the changes improve the land's conservation values or pose no threat to them. Every proposal to amend a conservation covenant requires the agreement of the Trust, the landowner and the Minister. Please see the ‘amending a covenant’ information brochure.

  • Will a conservation covenant affect my rates?

    It varies. Rating authorities may re-value or re-zone the property if a conservation covenant has been placed on the title. If the value or zoning of your property varies due to the covenant, then the applied rates may vary. Land taxes may also be affected if the land is no longer zoned for primary production. Before entering into the covenant, a landowner should check with their local council. Some municipalities offer general property or water rate reductions for covenanted properties.

  • What if I have a mortgage on a property I want to covenant?

    If a landowner has a mortgage or other encumbrance over the property, they should first talk to their bank or mortgage provider prior to signing a deed of covenant. Some banks may not allow a covenant on a property while it is mortgaged. Generally, this only happens if the estimated value of the property is expected to fall significantly. Evidence that similar properties have not fallen in value as a result of a covenant may help in negotiations with a bank. The Trust always recommends that the mortgage provider read and sign the deed of covenant to indicate their consent.

  • Does a conservation covenant affect the value of my property?

    It depends. In some instances a conservation covenant has no effect on the value of a property since land use is generally unaltered. In some areas, covenanting may lead to an increase in the value of the land because of the superior land management practices that often result. For impacts on land tax assessments, please speak to your accountant or the State Revenue Office to determine if the property’s value has been affected.

  • What happens if I want to sell my property?

    If you are planning to sell your property please contact us to see how we might assist you in advertising your property or in talking to potential purchasers about the covenant. Once a covenant is registered on title it remains there in perpetuity and binds future owners. Buyers need to be made aware of the covenant during the sale process to ensure they make an informed decision. Once a property is sold, it is important the Trust for Nature makes contact with the new owners to help explain the terms of the covenant and links with Trust for Nature. If you have recently sold your property please contact us so we can arrange to speak with the new owners.

  • What happens if someone breaches a conservation covenant?

    Trust for Nature seeks to work cooperatively and develop good relationships with landowners in the management of their property. If a breach does occur the matter is usually resolved through negotiation and mutually agreed actions, rather than through legal sanction. Should a dispute arise the Trust will seek to resolve it in accordance with the dispute resolution clause written into each covenant. However, in extreme cases the Trust reserves the right to take any action available to it at law or in equity to prevent a breach from occurring or to seek rectification.

  • What if my property is leased?

    Where a property is leased it remains the duty of the landowner to ensure the tenant complies with the conditions of the deed. The Trust also requests that you inform it if the property is leased or licensed to another body.

  • Are there any tax benefits for properties affected by a conservation covenant?

    If the covenant decreases the value of the property, the landowner may be eligible for a land tax deduction. If this is the case a valuation must be carried out by the Australian Valuation Office. Please see the State Revenue Office website for further information. Additionally, if the estimated market value of the land decreases by more than $5000 as a result of the covenant, the landowner may be eligible for an income tax deduction. This deduction can be apportioned over five years. More information is available from Trust for Nature and the Australian Taxation Office.

  • Can I keep a pet?

    Yes, in most cases. While pets and other animals are prohibited within the standard covenant restrictions, a letter of approval can provide the necessary waiver to keep a dog or poultry. Cats are usually prohibited because they stray at night and kill native wildlife. Existing cats may be allowed to remain until they die, provided they are kept indoors at night.

  • Can I undertake fire prevention work?

    Yes. Fire prevention is necessary to protect lives and assets. Trust for Nature provides advice and is happy to work with landowners and Country Fire Authority (CFA) representatives to balance conservation needs with protection from bushfires. Trust for Nature recommends landowners acquaint themselves with fire danger ratings that will be broadcast over the fire danger period. We advocate that responses by landowners are consistent with the advice provided by CFA (refer to CFA website: www.cfa.vic.gov.au). For information relating to vegetation management around homes please seek the advice of your Regional Manager.

  • Can I put stock in a covenanted area?

    Most conservation covenants require that stock be completely excluded and fenced out from natural areas. But some exceptions can be made. For example, grazing may be used as a land management tool for grassland communities or in farming areas there may be provisions for short term access to shelter during severe weather alerts. Please note that written approval must be obtained from the Trust before giving stock access to covenanted land. Speak to your Regional Manager for further information.

  • Can I have a house on a covenanted property?

    Yes. A house can be permitted on a covenanted property in one of two ways, either the area of land that contains the house can be excluded from the covenant or an area around the house can be defined as a domestic area and included. The covenant will then permit the carrying out of usual domestic activities with the domestic area.

  • How do covenants work with biodiversity offsets?

    Biodiversity offsets are agreements between a landowner, and a proponent who has a permit to clear native vegetation. The offset is secured on the landowner's land with a conservation covenant, which has slightly different restrictions to a standard covenant. Please see contact us for more information on the Trust for Nature Biodiversity Offset Program.

  • Does the covenant affect neighbouring properties?

    Because a covenant is an agreement between the landowner and the Trust, it does not involve neighbouring properties.

  • Can a Trust for Nature covenant prevent mining on protected land?

    No. A Trust for Nature conservation covenant cannot override mining legislation. However, public authorities will often try to have regard for covenanted land where a development is proposed. The Trust will advocate on behalf of landowners where development proposals are likely to damage the conservation values of the land.

  • What is the Revolving Fund?

    Trust for Nature manages a unique Revolving Fund to purchase significant native habitats. Bush properties are purchased by Trust for Nature and then on-sold with a conservation covenant on the title to a caring new owner. The money raised from the sale is used to purchase further properties for conservation. In this way the fund revolves in perpetuity. Trust for Nature's successful Revolving Fund is the model now being adopted by other states in Australia. Bequests and major donations that are given for land purchases have ensured the fund is sustainable and remains an easily managed tool for preserving some of our most precious habitat.

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