Licensing arrangements for ground distribution of herbicides

To control the ground distribution of herbicides, both the operator of the equipment and the company or business employing or directing the operators, need to be licensed:

  • individuals who operate ground equipment for herbicide distribution are called commercial operators (licence number will begin with 'G') and operate under a commercial operator's licence
  • organisations and individual contractors in the business of ground distribution who direct or authorise licensed commercial operators to use ground equipment are called ground distribution contractors (licence number will begin with 'GDC'). They must hold a ground distribution contractor's licence. A licensed aerial distribution contractor may also undertake this function.

When you need a licence for ground distribution

Factors that can determine whether you require a commercial operator's licence are:

  1. The location in Queensland where the ground distribution is carried out. A licence is not required if you carry out ground distribution in those areas of Queensland where the legislation does not apply (mainly western and far northern regions). Read more about regulated areas for ground distribution of herbicides.
  2. The type of ground equipment being used and whether it is being used in a hazardous area. Ground equipment, as defined in the Agricultural Chemicals Distribution Control Act 1966, is any machine or apparatus other than an aircraft in flight used or intended for the distribution of a herbicide.

Some equipment is exempted from this definition in locations outside hazardous areas. These exemptions are:

  • equipment that is hand-powered
  • equipment powered by compressed air or gas applied directly to the spray liquid for distribution without the use of air blast techniques
  • hose proportioning devices.

Note: If the equipment you are using falls within these exemptions you do not require a licence when carrying out ground distribution outside hazardous areas. However, you do require a licence if you are distributing with this equipment in areas within hazardous areas.

Distributing herbicides without a licence

As an operator, there are some circumstances where you are able to distribute herbicides without a commercial operator's licence and not be charged with an offence under section 39(3) of the Agricultural Chemicals Distribution Control Act 1966. These circumstances include if you are using the ground equipment on:

  • land owned or occupied by you
  • land owned or occupied by your relative – a relative as defined in the Act can be a spouse, son or daughter, father, mother, brother or sister, grandparent or grandchild
  • land owned or occupied by your employer who is primarily engaged in pastoral or agricultural pursuits and you are bound by a contract of service that is primarily for work other than the ground distribution in question.

Note: A licence would be required if the primary purpose for engaging your services was to undertake the particular ground distribution in question

  • any unallocated state land, reserve or road under the Land Act 1994 that adjoins the land mentioned above, provided you have the permission of the entity that holds or controls the unallocated state land, reserve or road.

Note: You will need a licence in the above situations if you wish to apply certain restricted herbicides in a hazardous area.

Supervising unlicensed operators

A licensed commercial operator is permitted to supervise an unlicensed operator or a group of unlicensed operators to use ground equipment to carry out ground distribution. The licensed commercial operator:

  • must be present while ground distribution is being carried out (i.e. the licensed operator must never leave their post)
  • must maintain close supervision at all times (i.e. they should not issue instructions to the unlicensed operators before the ground distribution and then leave them to carry out the work on their own).

When supervising unlicensed operators, a licensed commercial operator is responsible for:

  • checking the calibration of the spray equipment being used
  • confirming the correct spray nozzle has been selected
  • supervising the mixing and safe handling of the herbicide concentrate.

Licensing for landholders working on neighbouring properties

While landholders (e.g. farmers and primary producers) do not need to hold a licence to carry out ground distribution on land that they or their relatives own or occupy, the same does not apply when carrying out ground distribution on a neighbour's property.

For example, if you use ground equipment on your neighbour's property (e.g. a boom spray or a misting machine) you need to have a commercial operator's licence. However, depending on the circumstances, you may also need to hold a ground distribution contractor's licence.

Note: In declared hazardous areas, landholders who wish to spray certain forms of MCPA, 2,4-D and picloram on their own, a relative's or a neighbour's property will need to be licensed and obtain a distribution permit.