7. Reform directions for permitted clearing regulations
7.1 Reforms aim to build on the current system
The framework that underpins the current permitted clearing regulations is designed
so that native vegetation removal has a neutral impact on biodiversity while
balancing the needs of the environment with other community objectives. It is
proposed that this current approach is retained and that a series of reforms be
undertaken to build on and strengthen this system. These reforms are designed to
address the issues identified with the current system in Section Error! Reference
source not found., and ensure that the permitted clearing regulations are being
implemented in the most efficient and effective way.
This section sets out four priority reforms that align with the principles of best
practice environmental regulation set out in Error! Reference source not found.. In
addition, a set of supporting reforms are proposed to accompany the priority
reforms. These supporting reforms can be rolled out independently over time, to
ensure that the priority reforms are supported by a robust and efficient regulatory
system.
Feedback is sought from stakeholders and the community on the proposed reforms.
The government will consider feedback before deciding its preferred approach. A
series of draft documents setting out the technical and implementation details of the
reforms will then be released for public comment.
7.2 Summary of proposed reforms
The key components of the proposed reforms to the permitted clearing regulations
are set out in Figure 1. These reforms are discussed in Sections 0 and 0.
7.3 Priority reforms
Priority reform 1: Clarify and amend the objective for permitted clearing
Aim:
To clarify the objective for the permitted clearing regulation so that it is clearly
distinguishable, easily communicated and appropriately focussed.
The Victorian Government proposes to clarify and amend the objective for permitted
clearing of native vegetation. Clarification will ensure that the objective:

is clearly articulated, and readily distinguishable from the overarching
objective of native vegetation management

is equitable, with landholders not expected to compensate for more than
their impact

moves beyond a focus on only quality and extent of native vegetation, to a
more comprehensive approach of managing native vegetation for
biodiversity outcomes
30

relates specifically to native vegetation for biodiversity in the planning
system.
The proposed amended and clarified objective for permitted clearing in Victoria is
set out below.
Objective for permitted clearing of native vegetation in Victoria:
No net loss in the contribution made by native vegetation to Victoria’s biodiversity.
This objective creates the framework for permitted clearing to have a neutral impact
on biodiversity. To achieve this objective the following should occur:

native vegetation removal should generally not be permitted if it has a
significant impact on Victoria’s biodiversity that cannot be satisfactorily offset

clearing is avoided or minimised where environmental costs, as reflected in
the offset costs, outweigh the value of the alternate land use

when native vegetation removal is permitted, offset requirements will deliver
a neutral outcome for Victoria’s biodiversity.
The intention is that the objective for biodiversity be distinguishable within the
permitted clearing regulations. The objective of permitted clearing regulations will
be clearly set out in the Victoria Planning Provisions. This will enable the biodiversity
objective to be considered in integrated decision making alongside other native
vegetation related objectives.
Proposed action 1.1:
Clarify and amend the objective for permitted clearing in policy documents, and in
the State Planning Policy Framework and the relevant Particular Provisions in the
Victoria Planning Provisions.
31
Figure 1 Reform directions for permitted clearing regulations
Figure summarises the proposed priority and supporting reforms for the permitted
clearing regulations.
Priority reform 2: Improve how the biodiversity value of native vegetation is
defined and measured
Aims:

Reduce costs and improve accuracy in measuring the biodiversity value of
native vegetation through improvements in mapping and modelling
approaches, and the site assessment method.

Reduce regulatory burden faced by landholders and government by greater
use of mapped and modelled data, and reduced reliance on site assessments
and consultants’ reports.

Provide greater certainty for landowners by improved information provision
upfront.
Improving our understanding of the value of native vegetation for biodiversity can
assist in more accurate and consistent decision making, and better targeted offset
obligations. In addition, providing accurate information upfront about the
biodiversity value of land to landholders, assists them in making informed land-use
32
decisions. Improving information and its accessibility reduces the administrative
burden related to information collection and uncertainty of obligations.
Value of native vegetation for biodiversity at the landscape scale
Since Victoria’s Native Vegetation Management – A Framework for Action was
introduced in 2002, there have been developments in our scientific understanding
of:

the biodiversity value of native vegetation

the role played by native vegetation in maintaining biodiversity

the threats facing native vegetation

the tools and technology available to measure biodiversity value and assist
decision making.
The current permitted clearing regulations use conservation significance as a
measure of the value of native vegetation that is not captured by its quality and
extent. Conservation significance is a broad, criteria-based categorisation of
vegetation. The categorisation is informed by a combination of the rare or
threatened status of the vegetation type and its quality, the presence of habitat for
rare or threatened species, or other attributes.1
There is an opportunity to design a new system that is based on current scientific
understanding and tools, and which can better distinguish the relative strategic value
of native vegetation in different locations in the landscape. Proposed improvements
include:

prioritising locations for their biodiversity value at a statewide level, using the
spatial modelling approaches that inform NaturePrint (see below for details)

moving from using point data and subjective decision criteria to define rare
or threatened species habitat, to using Species Distribution Models (SDMs).
These are predictive maps which show the suitability of a location for a
species based on its geographic variation

better identification of localised sites of importance for rare or threatened
species, and greater understanding of the potential consequences of clearing
these sites.
NaturePrint – Strategic Natural Values 2.0
Developed by DSE, NaturePrint prioritises native vegetation assets across Victoria. It
is an interactive model that brings together large amounts of information collected
about species presence, habitat quality and connectivity, to determine relative
environmental value across the landscape. This model ranks locations for their
potential to contribute to the efficient conservation of the full range of Victoria’s
biodiversity.
Biodiversity value of native vegetation at the site level
1
Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Victoria’s Native Vegetation Management: A Framework
for Action, Melbourne 2002, Appendix 3, p. 53
33
In the current system, the Habitat Hectares methodology is used to measure quality
and quantity of native vegetation at a site. These site-based assessments can be time
consuming and subject to assessor variation. Opportunities for improving the
methodology have been identified that can reduce assessor time and increase the
accuracy and consistency of information the assessment provides. Proposed
improvements include:

focussing the methodology on capturing and validating the quality of the
vegetation on site, with contextual factors (such as landscape context)
determined using spatial models which more accurately incorporate
landscape values

embed and better utilise technology in the assessment process to allow for
integration of more complex calculations and to reduce user error

modify the scoring approach and calculation to allow for better reflection of
relative value, and for distinction between sites.
Spatial models offer the opportunity to reduce the cost and improve the accuracy of
information used to support decision making. For low impact clearing spatial models
can replace complex site-based assessments. However, when the impact of a
proposal is considered high, or the site is identified as providing high strategic value,
site assessments will be required to augment or validate modelled information (see
priority reform 3).
Providing information on value
Comprehensive information about the value of native vegetation on their land
should be readily available to landholders interacting with the regulatory system.
Providing access to biodiversity information helps landholders to understand their
potential permitted clearing regulatory obligations upfront. This allows for more
informed planning and investment decisions, and assists landholders to develop
plans that avoid and minimise native vegetation removal.
The government is best placed to efficiently provide systems to define and measure
value, drawing on economies of scale and specialisation, and ensuring consistency
and independence. It is proposed that improved spatial information about the value
of native vegetation be made readily available to the community.
Proposed action 2.1:
Develop a purpose built information system that measures biodiversity value and
prioritises locations across the state for conservation. This system can inform
application assessment pathways, decision making guidelines and offset
requirements.
Proposed action 2.2:
Map locations in the landscape for their importance as habitat for rare or threatened
species.
Proposed action 2.3:
Update the Habitat Hectares methodology so that it incorporates current technology
and scientific understandings of biodiversity.
34
Proposed action 2.4:
Improve publicly available information on the biodiversity values of locations.
Priority reform 3: Improve decision making
Risk and proportionality in decision making
Aims:

Protect high value biodiversity assets through targeting the mitigation
hierarchy to situations where the impact of native vegetation removal is
highest.

Reduce regulatory burden for the majority of landowners by simplifying the
permit process for low impact clearing, which accounts for the largest
proportion of permit applications.

Reduce administrative costs for government and better protect native
vegetation of high biodiversity value by targeting resources where the
impacts of clearing are highest.
To enable the permitted clearing regulations to provide both efficient and equitable
outcomes, it is proposed that risk and proportionality are more firmly embedded in
the regulatory system. Incorporating risk and proportionality into the permit
application process and decision making ensures that obligations and costs faced by
landholders better reflect the biodiversity impact of their clearing proposal.
The characteristics of native vegetation that define its importance for maintaining
biodiversity are highly varied. Therefore, it is not effective or efficient to impose a
one-size-fits-all approach to regulating native vegetation removal.
The value of native vegetation on a particular site is determined by its quality and
extent, and also its importance for the persistence of species of flora and fauna.
Species persistence is the continued existence and diversity of a species into the
future. The importance of native vegetation for species persistence could relate to
the rarity of its type, whether it is habitat for a threatened species, or if its location is
strategically important in the landscape. Figure 2 shows the different characteristics
of native vegetation that drive its importance for biodiversity, and therefore the
level of impact that removing it could have.
35
Figure 2 Characteristics of native vegetation that determine its biodiversity value
Figure shows the characteristics of native vegetation that is a combination of either
high or low importance for species persistence and high or low quality and extent.
It is proposed that applications to remove native vegetation be processed according
to the biodiversity impact of the proposed native vegetation removal, and that this
approach is formalised in the planning system,
It is further proposed that risk-based pathways determine what information is
required to assess permit applications. With improved mapped data and prioritising
tools available to inform decisions, the need for site assessments can be better
targeted. For low risk applications, decisions can be based on mapped and modelled
information without requiring a site assessment. This would reduce costs for a large
portion of permit applications that are low risk (see Error! Reference source not
found.).
Risk-based pathways for application processing can ensure that regulator resources
are focussed on the small number of applications that have the bulk of the
environmental impact.
It is also proposed that the risk-based pathways determine how the mitigation
hierarchy is applied. This would involve a shift of focus in applying the mitigation
hierarchy:

away from the input-based approach, where all applicants are required to
demonstrate that clearing has been avoided and minimised
36

towards an output-based measure that considers the effect of the clearing on
biodiversity.
The mitigation hierarchy should be applied in a manner that considers:

the type and impact of the clearing proposal

the costs and benefits of retaining native vegetation within the context of its
surrounding landscape, and its long term viability.
A permit for native vegetation removal should generally not be granted when
removal is considered to have a significant impact on a biodiversity asset, and it is
unlikely that offsets are available or can provide acceptable compensation for the
loss of native vegetation.
When native vegetation removal can be satisfactorily offset, the cost of offsets
provides an incentive for proponents to develop plans which minimise impacts on
native vegetation. This would be supported by more accurate information on the
value of the native vegetation being provided to permit applicants, along with
assistance in understanding their potential impacts on native vegetation and how
these can be minimised. Improved functioning of the offset market, including better
information on price and offset availability (discussed in Section 7.4), also assists
permit applicants to make informed decisions that minimise native vegetation
removal, and reduce their offset requirements and costs.
For low risk applications, it is proposed that demonstrating avoidance and
minimisation would not be required, and a permit would be granted provided a
compliant offset is obtained. It is envisaged that this change would simplify and
streamline low risk permit application processes and reduce costs.
As the majority of applications are for low impact clearing, a formalised risk-based
pathways approach is expected to significantly reduce the regulatory burden faced
by both landholders and government. In these cases landholders will be able to
undertake a simplified and expedited permit approval process.
Risk-based pathways in practice
In response to the 2009 VCEC report A Sustainable Future for Victoria: Getting
Environmental Regulation Right, the Victorian Government committed to the
introduction of a risk-based approach for assessing native vegetation permits. This
approach aligns the complexity and cost of the permit application process to the
biodiversity impact of the proposed removal of native vegetation.
To deliver on this commitment, DSE has developed an approach to streamlining
permit applications to remove native vegetation on the basis of their expected risk
and impact. This has included developing low, moderate and high risk application
categories based on the extent of native vegetation that is proposed to be cleared,
and the presence of ‘highly localised assets.’ Highly localised assets are areas of high
environmental significance where modest levels of vegetation removal may have
significant impacts.
For low risk permits, the assessment relies on existing mapped and modelled data,
coupled with non-specialist information provided by the applicant. This has reduced
37
the need for complex and costly consultants’ reports. In addition, demonstrating
strict compliance with the mitigation hierarchy is not required, in recognition of the
low risk nature of the proposed clearing.
To date the application of the risk-based pathways has been limited to DSE referred
permit applications and this approach is not formalised in the planning system.
Focussing on biodiversity outcomes in decision making
The proposed amended objective of the permitted clearing regulations focuses the
purpose of the regulations on the biodiversity outcomes delivered by native
vegetation. To deliver this biodiversity objective, the decisions made and obligations
imposed under the regulations should clearly consider the biodiversity aspects of
native vegetation. Other benefits that native vegetation provides, such as land and
water protection, can continue to be considered as part of the application process
for a permit to remove native vegetation. However, it is proposed that this
consideration be clearly distinguished through separate fit-for-purpose decision
guidelines, and not be informed by the biodiversity related rules and guidance
material.
It is proposed that the native vegetation for biodiversity decision guidelines and
offsetting requirements be amended so they focus on protecting and maintaining
Victoria’s biodiversity.
A clearer distinction between considering native vegetation for biodiversity, and for
other purposes, would also improve the functionality of the regulations. This
includes providing clarity about the basis on which decisions are made, and ensuring
that conditions placed on a permit are focused on the outcomes desired.
Proposed action 3.1:
Embed in the planning system a tiered, risk-based approach to processing
applications for permits to remove native vegetation, including what information is
required to be provided.
Proposed action 3.2:
Update the permitted clearing decision making guidelines to better facilitate
consistent outcomes and risk-based decision making. Updates should include:

applying the mitigation hierarchy based on the risk and impact of the
proposal to remove native vegetation

considering the relative costs and benefits of retaining, or removing and
offsetting native vegetation over time.
Proposed action 3.3:
Develop separate decision making guidelines for considering native vegetation
removal in relation to biodiversity outcomes, and for other outcomes.
38
Priority reform 4: Ensure offsets provide appropriate compensation for the
environment
Aims:

Provide protection for native vegetation of high biodiversity value by
ensuring that offsets are appropriately tailored to mitigate impacts of native
vegetation removal.

Direct offsets towards areas that are likely to have higher strategic
biodiversity value in the long term by creating incentives for landowners to
offset in areas that are more strategically valuable.

Reduce costs to landowners by providing simplified and more flexible offset
arrangements for low impact clearing, which makes up the majority of permit
applications.
To meet the ‘no net loss’ from permitted clearing objective, when clearing is
permitted to occur it is required that offsets are secured that deliver gains in native
vegetation that are equivalent to the losses that have occurred. It is proposed that
new stratified offsetting rules be developed that:

provide compensation for the environment that better reflects the value of
the native vegetation removed

impose obligations and costs that are proportionate to the value of the native
vegetation that is proposed to be removed.
39
Figure 8: Biodiversity value of native vegetation and corresponding offset
requirements
Figure shows offset requirements for the removal of different types of native
vegetation.
These proposed offsetting rules would be informed by the improved tools for
measuring biodiversity value, discussed in priority reform 2. The rules would have
regard to the quality and extent of native vegetation and indicators of its importance
for species persistence. These outcomes would be achieved through the following
approaches:

when the vegetation being removed provides important habitat for rare or
threatened species, the corresponding offset requirement would provide
targeted outcomes for those species

when the native vegetation is not important for the persistence of rare or
threatened species, offsets would be based on the strategic importance of
the vegetation being cleared. This would create the opportunity to focus
offsetting in areas that are most strategically important for maintaining
Victoria’s biodiversity. This approach would be likely to result in improved
and longer lasting biodiversity outcomes than the current approach which
focuses on maintaining the status quo through either in situ conservation, or
replication elsewhere

for native vegetation removal with low impacts, offsetting requirements
would be more flexible and be met through simplified processes. For example
40
increasing options to offset on site or pooling multiple small offsets at larger
sites through over-the-counter offset schemes.
Figure 3 illustrates the characteristics of native vegetation that determine its
importance for biodiversity and the proposed corresponding offset requirements.
Figure 3 Biodiversity value of native vegetation and corresponding offset requirements Figure
shows offset requirements for the removal of different types of native vegetation
Proposed action 4.1:
Develop new risk-based offsetting rules that are organised around the strategic
priority of locations in the landscape. These rules include:

requiring the offsets to closely match the type of vegetation cleared where
rare or threatened species habitat is affected

for permits to remove native vegetation that have low biodiversity impacts,
providing flexible offsetting options, that still deliver targeted environmental
outcomes
where matching of clearing and offset is not required, creating incentives that direct
offsets to areas of high strategic biodiversity value for the state.
7.4 Supporting reforms
Alongside the four priority reform areas discussed in Section 7.3, the review of the
permitted clearing regulations also identified five further areas for improvement.
These five areas can be pursued independently, over the medium to long term (see
Figure 1).
Some of these additional areas for improvement extend beyond the native
vegetation permitting process and are applicable to broader native vegetation
policy.
Supporting reform 1: Define state and local government regulatory and planning
roles
Local governments have primary responsibility for land use planning in their areas,
including responsibility for zoning and overlays, which should accurately identify
areas for environmental protection and areas for development. This planning plays
an important role in the functioning of the permitted clearing regulations. There are
opportunities for DSE to work with local government to improve the application of
these tools, to ensure that they are accurate, reflect natural values and allowed uses
of land, and are complementary with statewide legislation. Improved spatial
information about natural values should facilitate this process.
The role of DSE in the development and designation of overlays, and as a referral
authority, could also benefit from reassessment and clarification. Local policy
frameworks should clearly differentiate local policy for protecting native vegetation
to achieve local objectives (for example, amenity, or local environmental concerns)
from the Victorian Government’s native vegetation policy. Where decisions about
retaining native vegetation or about offset requirements are based on local policy
41
objectives, these decisions should be clearly attributed to the local government’s
objectives. Developing guidance material about the roles and responsibilities of state
and local government will improve clarity in both native vegetation policy
development and implementation. Clearer demarcation of policy purposes and
responsibilities should enable landholders to better understand the basis on which
native vegetation planning decisions are made. This improves accountability and
ensures that clear paths of recourse for decisions are available under both Victorian
Government policy and local government policy.
Strategic planning mechanisms also offer an opportunity to consider some specific
issues at a larger scale in a more coordinated manner. The complexity of some
biodiversity assets, and the threats facing rare and threatened species may mean
that, in certain circumstances, the site-level permit system is inadequate for
facilitating optimal land use or environmental outcomes. In these cases a
coordinated approach, tailored to the specific problem, may achieve improved
environmental outcomes.
A coordinated approach may also be beneficial where there are environmentally
sensitive areas, or areas with high levels of land use change. There is an opportunity
to build on experience gleaned from the Melbourne Strategic Assessment, and to
investigate the use of strategic approaches in appropriate areas.
Improvement 1.1:
Work with local government to:

ensure the interoperability of local planning policies and the Victorian
Government’s permitted clearing regulations, including the use of overlays

develop guidance material defining the roles, responsibilities and
accountabilities of different parts and levels of government in relation to
native vegetation policies.
Improvement 1.2:
Continue to investigate opportunities for using strategic planning mechanisms to
deliver biodiversity outcomes from native vegetation management efficiently and
effectively.
Supporting reform 2: Better regulatory performance
There are opportunities to improve the regulatory performance of both DSE and
local government. The native vegetation regulatory system would benefit from
improvements to the following areas of monitoring and reporting:

enhance the use and useability of the Native Vegetation Tracking system to
improve data quality and accountability

consolidate and improve consistency of guidance material

improve reporting of native vegetation removal and offsetting

improve and broaden regulatory performance indicators so that they reflect
quality, proportionality and robustness of permit assessment processes.
42
Improvement 2.1:
Improve public reporting of native vegetation removal and offsetting, and improve
and broaden performance indicators.
Improvement 2.2:
Enhance the use and useability of data systems, standard forms and guidance
material.
Improvement 2.3:
Develop and implement more comprehensive internal quality assurance processes.
Supporting reform 3: Improve offset market functionality
There are opportunities to improve the functioning of the offset market, both for
over-the-counter offsets and for the standard offset market.
Over-the-counter offsets
Over-the-counter offsets are established and registered on the Native Vegetation
Credit Register. They are larger offset sites split into smaller units and sold at fixed
prices. These offsets are often used to offset smaller, low impact clearing, but can be
used for any scale of clearing as long as they meet the offset requirements.
Over-the-counter offsets provide a mechanism for landholders to fulfil their offset
obligations with reduced transaction and delay costs and predictable prices. As
over-the-counter offsets pool small offsets at larger sites, they can also provide
better environmental outcomes compared to multiple smaller offset sites.
Currently, however, opportunities to purchase over-the-counter offsets are limited
to specific locations in Victoria, and mostly provide offsets for trees. Over-thecounter offset options, for different types of clearing and offset requirements,
should be readily available across Victoria. It is proposed that DSE work with local
governments to establish over-the-counter offset programs and to develop
standards for their functionality and integrity.
Facilitating the use of Property Vegetation Plans
Property Vegetation Plans were introduced to assist farmers to comply with their
obligations under the permitted clearing regulations. The Plans identify areas of
vegetation for removal and protection on a landholder’s property, and allow
flexibility to implement the plan over time. A number of constraints, such as high
upfront information costs and the need to meet prescriptive vegetation type
requirements, have prevented Property Vegetation Plans being widely used. This
paper outlines proposed changes to the permitted clearing regulations including the
provision of improved biodiversity information, risk-based decision making and more
flexible offsetting options. These changes should enable a greater set of options for
many farmers to identify areas for on-farm offsetting at significantly lower cost. It is
proposed that DSE work with landholders to facilitate the development and
preparation of Property Vegetation Plans in line with the requirements of the new
system.
43
Improve functionality of the offset market
Parts of the standard offset market have a low supply of offsets. Due to a lack of
competition, some offset providers have been able to charge excessively high prices.
Proposed measures to improve competition in the offset market include:

reduce transaction costs (see Section 0) in order to decrease barriers to
market entry and improve market participation

increase information availability and improve matching of buyers and sellers

increase offsetting options through less restrictive offset requirements that
are more outcomes focused.
However, as native vegetation is highly diverse and some types are relatively scarce,
in some instances it is unlikely that a well functioning market with adequate
competition is achievable. For example, there may be low availability of offsets that
fulfil specific species habitat requirements. In these cases, there is an opportunity for
government to act as a market facilitator and to work as a conduit between buyers
and sellers of offsets, enabling offset requirements to be met more efficiently.
Public land considerations
Whether vegetation is on land of public or private tenure should not be important
when considering its biodiversity value. Nonetheless, there are a number of
constraints that have limited the feasibility of taking a tenure blind approach to
offsetting native vegetation removal.
To date the use of public land for offsets has been limited to offsetting some small
areas of clearing on public land. There is potential for a more integrated system of
offsetting on public and private land, particularly where actions undertaken on
public land may deliver high strategic benefits for rare or threatened species. For
offsets to be established in a credible manner on public land, where and how gains in
native vegetation can be achieved needs to be identified, and mechanisms are
required to prevent cost shifting from occurring. It is proposed that development of
an integrity framework for offsetting on public land be developed.
Improvement 3.1:
Work with local governments to develop over-the-counter offset provision, and
expand the kinds of offsets available through these mechanisms.
Improvement 3.2:
Improve participation and increase efficiency in the offset market by:

reducing transaction costs

increasing information available

improving visibility for buyers and sellers in the offset market.
44
Improvement 3.3:
Identify scenarios where it is beneficial for government to play a facilitator role in
the offset market.
Improvement 3.4:
Investigate the development of an integrity framework to guide offsetting on public
land.
Supporting reform 4: New approaches to compliance and enforcement
The integrity and effectiveness of the permitted clearing regulations relies on the
level of compliance with these regulations.
Clarifying policy and improvements in processes will go some way towards putting in
place the right incentives for landholders and offset providers to comply with the
regulations. This would include:

improving proponents’ understanding of their obligations to comply with the
regulations

making the permit application process simpler, more streamlined and less
costly

increasing options and availability of offsets through new offsetting rules and
offset market reform.
It is envisaged that these changes will encourage compliance with permitted clearing
regulations by reducing the cost of complying with the permit system.
To strengthen the system further, it is proposed that DSE work with local
government to more closely monitor offset delivery, and more rigorously enforce
the application of the regulations. Options for encouraging compliance include the
use of technology for monitoring changes in native vegetation extent, targeting
areas where compliance is low and impacts are material, and increasing information
provision to raise awareness of the regulations and the importance of compliance. A
new compliance and enforcement strategy will provide the community with greater
assurance that native vegetation obligations are being met.
Improvement 4.1:
Work with local governments to develop a cost-benefit based compliance and
enforcement strategy that ensures the obligations of the permitted clearing
regulations are being met.
Supporting reform 5: Continuous improvement program
Over the ten years since adoption of Victoria’s Native Vegetation Management – A
Framework for Action, DSE and local governments have undertaken a continuing
program of reforms to improve the Framework’s functionality. Continuous
improvements include ongoing efforts to address stakeholder concerns as they arise,
addressing unintended outcomes and improving efficiencies in processes. It is
important to continue to take opportunities to improve outcomes as they become
45
available. Some areas identified as requiring a particular focus in future continuous
improvement activities are set out below.
Interactions between state and Commonwealth regulations
The Victorian Government proposes to continue to work with the Commonwealth
Government to streamline the application of state and Commonwealth biodiversity
regulations. This include seeking Commonwealth accreditation of Victoria’s
assessment and approvals process, with the aim of reducing duplication and
unnecessary red tape.
Exemptions
In 2006, a detailed assessment was undertaken of the exemptions from requiring a
permit to remove native vegetation under the permitted clearing regulations. The
proposed risk-based approach to decision making in the permitted clearing
regulations will allow for greater differentiation in how clearing proposals are
treated. Therefore, the requirement to have broad exemptions within the Victoria
Planning Provisions may no longer be necessary in all cases. There may also be a
need to amend the existing exemptions to improve certainty, clarity and operability.
Following implementation of the proposed reforms to the permitted clearing
regulations, DSE will undertake a review of the exemptions.
Updating scientific information and tools
Models will be constructed so that new and improved information can be
incorporated periodically. This will include new information on species habitat,
threatened status of species, and threats to biodiversity. The impact of the removal
of native vegetation that is occurring, both within and outside the permitted clearing
regulations, will also be monitored and incorporated into the policy settings.
Refine gain scoring
Gain scoring relates to the expected improvements in native vegetation through
management activities. As empirical studies that measure the impact of
management activities on native vegetation progress, gain scoring calculations
should be updated to reflect the most up-to-date understanding of these outcomes.
Monitoring of reform implementation
After the reforms identified have been adopted and bedded down, their
implementation will be monitored to ensure they are operating as planned and to
address any unintended outcomes, or issues identified from stakeholder feedback.
Improvement 5.1:
Adopt a process of continuous improvement for the permitted clearing regulations,
including the following actions:

work with the Commonwealth Government to ensure the interoperability of
state and Commonwealth regulation, and to reduce regulatory burden

periodically assess exemptions
46

identify areas for investigation to improve the quality and
comprehensiveness of the data that underpins the models, and update
models accordingly

refine gain scoring as new information on the impact of management
activities becomes available

assess system changes after implementation and address any emerging
issues.
47
Appendix 1 – Previous reviews of Victoria’s native
vegetation policy
Table 1: Summary of native vegetation policy related reviews findings
Review
Australian
Productivity
Commission (2004)
Impacts of Native
Vegetation and
Biodiversity
Regulation
Victorian
Competition and
Efficiency
Commission (2005)
Regulation and
Regional Victoria:
Challenges and
Opportunities
Review of
Exemptions in
Native Vegetation
Provisions by
Planning Advisory
Committee (2006)
Department of
Sustainability and
Environment (2008)
Native Vegetation
Net Gain Accounting
- First
Approximation
Report
Victorian
Competition and
Efficiency
Commission (2009)
A Sustainable Future
Key findings relating to the permitted clearing regulation

Suggested that high cost/low environmental gain outcomes be
treated with more flexibility.

Recognised the inefficiencies associated with the application of ‘net
gain’ in vegetation at a property level.

Recognised the benefits of the BushTender scheme in providing
incentives to landholders to manage retained native vegetation, and
offering opportunities for attaining environmental outcomes more
efficiently.

Raised concerns that native vegetation regulations that place more
value on vegetation of a higher quality discourage landholders from
maintaining the quality of vegetation on their land, and may even
encourage active degradation of native vegetation.

Found that ‘the complexity of regulation and its implementation
posed unnecessary uncertainty on landholders’.

Reported concerns regarding inconsistent interpretation and
application of the native vegetation regulation by local governments
and DSE. In particular relating to the ‘avoid, minimise, offset’
hierarchy, exemptions, monitoring and enforcement.

Recommended simplifying and clarifying the existing regulatory
framework.

Identified the role of native vegetation regulations in the reduction of
broadscale clearing.

Raised concerns that in some cases the loss of native vegetation
through exemptions may be unnecessary, and that the cumulative
effect of exemptions adds to the risks for significant vegetation.

Noted the importance of clear information and an integrated and
consistent approach to administration of the regulations.

Acknowledged the role of the clearing regulations in reducing
clearing, such that the clearing of native vegetation is no longer the
largest source of native vegetation change in Victoria.

Noted that entitled uses of vegetation were leading to reduced levels
of native vegetation quality.

Supported improvement of datasets, research and reporting on native
vegetation.

Identified confusion regarding the NVMF’s ‘net gain’ objective and the
role of permitted clearing regulations compared to government
investment in achieving the objective.

Reported concerns regarding inconsistent interpretation and
48
Review
for Victoria: Getting
Environmental
Regulation Right
Victorian Bushfires
Royal Commission
(2009)
Victorian
Environmental
Assessment Council
(2011)
Remnant Native
Vegetation
Investigation – Final
Report
Victorian
Competition and
Efficiency
Commission (2011)
Inquiry into a Statebased reform
agenda – Draft
Key findings relating to the permitted clearing regulation
application of regulation for the removal of native vegetation by local
governments and DSE.

Noted that the native vegetation permit application process is costly
and time consuming.

Highlighted the benefits of market-based instruments in offering
significant cost savings to achieve environmental outcomes.

Noted that trading rules may mean that there are few (or no) eligible
offsets for a proposed clearing, increasing compliance costs to
developers.

Identified that the ability to remove vegetation for fire protection
should be more closely aligned with the risk bushfires pose to life and
property.

Recognised the importance of accounting for the losses in native
vegetation due to bushfire risk management.

Recommended that government continue to support and expand
existing programs that encourage and assist private landholders to
contribute to biodiversity enhancement on private land and adjacent
public land.

Acknowledged Victoria’s comprehensive mapping databases and
recommended continuing and expanding the collection and analysis
of data on native vegetation.

Suggested that a case-by-case approach to native vegetation
regulation is complex and costly for local governments, DSE and
landholders.

Recommended a separation of responsibility for advising on native
vegetation policy and for administering the controls.

Reiterated concerns about how inconsistent administration of state
and Commonwealth environmental regulations has contributed to
uncertainty for investment.

Questioned the effectiveness of the current regulatory arrangements.
49
Glossary
Biodiversity – The variety of all life forms, the different plants, animals and
microorganisms, the genes they contain, and the ecosystems of which they form a
part.
BushBroker – A program coordinated by DSE to match parties that require native
vegetation offsets with third party suppliers of native vegetation offsets.
BushTender – An auction-based incentive scheme to deliver native vegetation
protection, habitat protection, management and improvement on private land.
Clearing regulations – All regulation pertaining to clearing of native vegetation
through the planning system, including permitted clearing regulation and
exemptions.
Delay costs – costs incurred from delay in commencing an activity. This may include
foregone income from delaying increases in productivity, or lost interest if payments
are delayed.
Environmental weeds - A plant species that has invaded (or has the potential to
invade) natural ecosystems and threaten environmental and/or conservation assets.
Environmental weeds may include some Australian native plants not indigenous to a
given area. Some weeds declared as noxious weeds (under schedules in the
Catchment and Land Protection (CaLP) Act 1994) are also environmental weeds.
Existing use rights – Landholders’ rights to continue using land in a manner that is
consistent with activities that the land has been used for in the past, as set out in
section 6(3) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987.
Gain in native vegetation – Protection and improvement in native
vegetation/habitat, as measured by a site-based measure of quality and extent,
achieved by active management, and/or increased security.
Habitat Hectares – Combined measure of quality and extent of native vegetation.
This measure is obtained by multiplying the site quality score (measured between 0
and 1) with the size of the site (in hectares).
Habitat Hectares Assessment (Vegetation Quality Assessment) – A site-based
measure of quality of native vegetation that is assessed in the context of the
relevant native vegetation type, compared to its pre-1750 condition.
Incorporated document – A document that is included in the list of incorporated
documents in a planning scheme. These documents effect the operation of the
planning scheme.
Landholder – An owner, occupier, proprietor or holder of land.
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Landscape context – Measure of the viability and functionality of a patch of native
vegetation in relation both to its size and position in the landscape, and to
surrounding vegetation.
Local planning scheme – Policies and provisions for use, development, and
protection of land in a local government area.
Loss in native vegetation – Decreases in native vegetation, as measured by a sitebased measure of quality and extent.
Melbourne Strategic Assessment – Agreement between the Victorian and
Commonwealth Governments that defines areas where clearing can occur within
Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary 2010. It includes the corresponding
conservation measures that must be undertaken to meet Victorian and
Commonwealth laws.
Negative externality – Occurs when a party undertaking an action does not have to
pay the full cost of their actions. The additional cost is borne by other parties.
Native vegetation – The Victoria Planning Provisions defines native vegetation as
plants that are indigenous to Victoria, including trees, shrubs, herbs and grasses. The
permitted clearing regulations consider native vegetation as vegetation that is
indigenous to a site.
Native vegetation credits – Gains in the quality and/or extent of native vegetation
that are subject to a secure and ongoing agreement registered on the land title, or
by transferring land to a more secure tenure type.
Native Vegetation Credit Register – A DSE administered statewide register of native
vegetation credits that meet minimum standards for security and management of
sites. It records those that can be traded, and those that have been used to meet a
specific offset requirement.
Native vegetation extent – Area of land covered by native vegetation.
Native Vegetation Particular Provision – Clause 52.17 in the Victoria Planning
Provisions that relates to the removal, destruction or lopping of native vegetation.
Native vegetation policy – All Victorian policy relating to native vegetation including
permitted clearing, exemptions, regulation of uses, government investment and
management of public land.
Native vegetation quality – A site-based measure of vegetation condition that is
assessed in the context of the relevant native vegetation type, compared to its
pre-1750 condition, as determined by a Habitat Hectare assessment.
51
Native vegetation regulation – All Victorian regulations related to native vegetation
including permitted clearing, exemptions and duty of care.
Native Vegetation Tracking System – A web-based information system used by DSE
for recording details of planning permits assessed by the Department, including the
location and amount of native vegetation clearing and offset requirements.
Offset – Measurable native vegetation conservation outcomes resulting from any
works, or other actions to make reparation for the loss of native vegetation arising
from the removal or destruction of native vegetation.
Offset market – A system which facilitates trade between parties requiring offsets
and third party suppliers of offsets.
Option value – The value from preserving an environmental attribute on the basis
that it may have potential use, or provide benefits in the future that are not fully
understood now.
Particular Provisions – provisions in the Victoria Planning Provisions that relate to
specific activities (for example, native vegetation removal has a Particular Provision).
Permit – a planning permit to remove native vegetation.
Permitted clearing – clearing that a permit to remove native vegetation has been
granted for.
Permitted clearing regulations – the rules in the planning system that regulate
permits for the removal of native vegetation.
Peri urban – areas of land fringing urban areas that are not fully urban or rural.
Planning provisions – see Victoria Planning Provisions.
Planning scheme amendment – Change to a planning scheme. There is an official
process that must be followed to amend a planning scheme.
Private land – land that is privately owned. For the purposes of this document this
does not include freehold land that is owned by government departments or
authorities.
Public good – A good that no-one can be excluded from using, where one party’s use
does not diminish the benefit that other parties obtain from using the good.
Public land – For the purposes of this document, public land refers to land that is
held by government departments or authorities for the benefit of the people of
52
Victoria. This includes State forest, national parks, Crown land and other reserves,
such as roadsides.
Rare or threatened species – A species that is listed in:
DSE’s Advisory List of Rare or Threatened Plants in Victoria as ‘endangered’,
‘vulnerable’, or ‘rare’
DSE’s Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria as ‘critically
endangered’, ‘endangered’ or ‘vulnerable’
DSE’s Advisory List of Threatened Invertebrate Fauna in Victoria as ‘critically
endangered’, ‘endangered’ or ‘vulnerable’.
Remnant patch of native vegetation – Either:
an area of native vegetation, with or without trees, where at least 25 per cent of the
total understorey plant cover is native plants, or
an area with trees where the tree canopy cover is at least 20 per cent.
Site – An area of land within a single parcel that contains contiguous patches of
native vegetation.
Species persistence – The continued existence and diversity of a species into the
future. Factors that contribute to a species’ potential to persist include population,
habitat and genetic diversity within a species.
Strategic planning – a coordinated approach to planning where areas for
conservation and areas which can be cleared are strategically identified.
Victoria Planning Provisions – a comprehensive list of planning provisions that
provides a standard template for individual planning schemes. These provisions
outline statewide obligations that are enacted through the permit process.
For more information call the Customer Service Centre 136 186
twitter.com/DSE_Vic
youtube.com/DSEVictoria
flickr.com/DSEVictoria
http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/
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Future directions for native vegetation in Victoria – Consultation