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Advice on minimising potential negative impacts relating to removing, adding and moving earth

What do we mean?

'Earthworks' is defined as any activity where there is significant digging activity and the removal or piling of soil, including quarries and other extraction industries. Earthworks will frequently occur in association with other activities such as subdivision and construction.

General points to consider

  • Earthworks can cause direct impacts on threatened species where topsoil is removed and vegetation is destroyed. 
  • Earthworks can also lead to changes to groundwater hydrology, which can affect areas beyond the immediate footprint of the activity.
  • Earthworks can lead to the introduction of weeds and plant and animal pathogens such as phytophthora (root rot fungus) and chytrid fungus (which affects frogs) through the use of dirty machinery or importation of contaminated soil and quarry materials.
  • Earthworks can also spread weeds and diseases already present at a site by spreading contaminated material around a work area. This can be a particular problem at work sites covering a large area such as major road developments and large subdivision sites.
  • Quarries are a central point at which soil and other materials (gravel, sand, etc) are extracted and/or stored. Appropriate management including hygiene and washdown protocols are essential for quarries to minimise the spread of weeds and diseases in contaminated soil.
  • Earthworks can also lead to weed infestation through the opening-up of native vegetation and exposing areas of bare soil for the establishment of weed seeds and propagules.
  • Earthworks can lead to accelerated erosion (through disturbance of dispersive soils) and acidification (through disturbance of potential acid sulphate soils).
  • Always follow correct washdown and hygiene procedures when using machinery in native vegetation areas. See Washdown Guidelines for more information.
  • Always ensure sources of imported materials are checked for potential weed or pathogen risk. 


Possible Regulator/s 

The agencies most commonly responsible for regulating this activity are listed below (but refer also to the Permits section on the Planning Ahead page):