Native groundcover - what you need to know before you sow

May 2020

David Eddy – Senior Land Services Officer, Land Management

Native groundcover occurs widely across the Monaro, but it is not always easily recognised or appreciated. Native groundcover is most often dominated by native grasses but includes various types of non-woody vegetation.

In some areas it grows on its own with no associated woody vegetation, in other areas it grows as a ground layer under native trees and shrubs.

Understanding how to identify native groundcover, assess its condition and how you can manage that land is an important part of land management on the Monaro.

An example of native groundcover on the Monaro

Identifying native groundcover

There are several broad types of native groundcover; natural grasslands, secondary grasslands, gassy woodlands or forests and native pastures. Identifying native groundcover takes some practice, but there are some simple pointers that you can use.

Natural grasslands are naturally occurring native vegetation communities, dominated by native grasses and with less than 10% tree or shrub cover. Many of these grasslands have a rich diversity of native grasses and other native herbaceous plants such as wildflowers, sedges and rushes.

Secondary grasslands are non-natural grasslands created by clearing of native trees and shrubs, leaving only the native groundcover component of the natural vegetation. They can be difficult to distinguish from natural grasslands when there is little remaining evidence of the original tree or shrub cover.

The native ground layer within woody vegetation such as grassy woodland or grassy forest is another form of native groundcover which is often used for livestock grazing. In these cases, the trees and shrubs are still present, but the native groundcover supports grazing livestock.

Many native pastures have been created by clearing woody vegetation. They are often highly modified from their natural vegetation structure and composition and bear little resemblance to the original natural vegetation. The trees and shrubs have often been largely or completely removed, they have different dominant native grass species, and have lost much of their plant diversity.

Managing native groundcover

Native groundcover varies widely in condition, largely as a result of the way it has been grazed, fertilised or cleared since European settlement. Its condition is a reflection of how modified it is from its original natural state. This is indicated by the dominant grass species, plant species diversity and abundance of weeds.

The Land Management Framework recognises three condition states - Low, Moderate and High Conservation Value, what you can clear and the approvals needed depend on the condition.

Under the Framework the following regulations apply:

Low Conservation Value (LCV) native groundcover is not regulated (Category 1 – Exempt) and may be cleared without approval. In many situations you can self-assess this type of groundcover. We can give you expert help to identify the condition of your groundcover.

Moderate Conservation Value (MCV) native groundcover is regulated (Category 2 - Regulated) and may be cleared under certain conditions, with approval from us. This approval would require you to establish a set-aside area.

High Conservation Value (HCV) native groundcover is categorised as sensitive (Category 2 - Sensitive) regulated land. Clearing this type of vegetation will generally not be approved, however you can still sustainably graze these areas.

It is important that the condition of your groundcover is properly assessed  before you begin to take any actions. Penalties do apply if inappropriate management actions are taken, so please contact us before you take any action.

Finding help to better understand the land management framework

The Land Management Framework is part of NSW state regulation, however there are also Commonwealth regulations for native vegetation management. We are here to help you understand both NSW and Commonwealth regulations and can provide expert advice on identifying native groundcover, assessing whether and under what conditions it may be cleared or information on possible funding assistance for conservation.

Call: 1300 795 299, or email

You can also find more information under the ‘How To Guides’ section of this page on our website:

Related information