50 - VicRoads (PDF 224kb) - Victorian Competition and Efficiency

Department of Treasury and Finance
Document No.
Folder No.
ABN 61 760 960 480
Office of the Chief Executive
60 Denmark Street
Kew Victoria Australia 3101
(03) 9854 2029
(03) 9853 0512
Please Quote: LB1095 82.10
Environmental Regulation Inquiry
Victorian Competition and Efficiency
GPO Box 4379
Dear Sir/Madam
Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission to the Inquiry into Victorian
Environmental Regulation. I apologise for the delay in lodging this submission.
VicRoads incurs both administrative and compliance costs in meeting the requirements
of Victorian environmental regulation. These are presented in more detail in the
attached submission.
Officers of VicRoads are willing to meet with you to provide more detail and case
studies if required.
Should you require further' information or wish' to arrange a meeting,
Ms Wendy Sladen, VicRoads' Senior Corporate Policy Officer (Tel: 9854 1823),
would be pleased to assist.
Yours sincerely
//# 72008
The Place To Be
vie roods
This submission focuses on a number of key issues raised within the Issues Paper that are of
direct relevance to VicRoads.
VicRoads agrees in principle with the preliminary assessment in the Issues Paper of the
regulatory burden imposed by Victoria's environmental regulations.
VicRoads supports the focus of the inquiry and accepts that, in general terms, the key
legislative instruments in relation to environmental regulation in Victoria are the Environment
Effects Act 1978, Environment Protection Act 1970 and related regulatory instruments
(including "grey letter law"), and the planning framework (including native vegetation
protections) under the Planning and Environment Act 1987.
However, it is noted that recommendations made as part of the Commissioner for
Environmental Sustainability obligations or changes to the National Environmental Protection
Council (Victoria), such as PlV^s, have the potential to impose significant compliance or
administrative burdens.
Impacts on VicRoads' Operations
The legislative instruments that currently impact most on VicRoads' operations and program
delivery include the State Government's Native Vegetation Management Framework as
implemented through the Planning and Environment Act and Victoria Planning Provisions,
and the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 and Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2007
The Government has recently undertaken reviews into the Aboriginal Heritage Regulations
and the planning permit exemptions for native vegetation removal under Clause 52.17 of the
Victoria Planning Provisions, and this has provided the opportunity for identified operational
difficulties to be remedied in these areas.
NB. VicRoads is also currently providing input into the development of the Major Projects (Transport)
Facilitation Bill, which also seeks to provide a streamlined process for nominated projects to provide
environmental and planning outcomes in a more efficient way.
While VicRoads recognises the need to protect and, where practicable, enhance significant
environmental values in Victoria, some reform or streamlining may be possible to facilitate
achievement of these outcomes in a more efficient way in terms of both time and cost. This is
particularly important where there are competing objectives such as road safety.
Notwithstanding some progress (e.g. Clause 52.17 permit exemptions), VicRoads is affected
where current environmental regulations still require permit applications, due largely to
administrative costs in relation to staff time, training and the preparation of permit
applications. In some cases, requirements can also involve substantive compliance costs
including the provision of environmental offsets and the administration of current.
environmental requirements has the potential to cause significant time delays to the delivery
of infrastructure projects.
Native Vegetation
The administration of existing native vegetation regulation is currently imposing a significant
cost to VicRoads.
Historically the requirement to obtain planning permits for the removal of native vegetation
has been a significant potential source of cost and delay for VicRoads' road improvement
projects. However, the recent review of the regulation of native vegetation removal under the
Victoria Planning Provisions (discussed above) has enabled VicRoads to pursue minor
impact works and road safety treatments without the need for a permit for removal of native
vegetation. While these changes have only recently become operational, it is anticipated that
this process streamlining will increase the efficiency of the delivery of VicRoads'
infrastructure program.
As a result of these changes, the key challenges for VicRoads with regard to biodiversity
compliance are now generally being presented by the requirements of the State Government's
Native Vegetation Management Framework, and in particular, the administration by the
Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and local Councils of Victoria's net
gain policy.
In some instances, it is taking more than eighteen months to. procure net gain offsets through
the BushBroker scheme, the Government's preferred delivery model. These timeframes are
being extended due to a lack of supply of appropriate offsets sites and the complexity and
inflexibility of the detail of the Framework (eg. habitat hectare assessment, like-for-like and
offset security requirements). In some cases this lack of supply has meant that in some cases
suitable offset sites need to be directly purchased from landowners at over $200,000 per
habitat hectare. This can represent a significant impact on project budgets, and the cost is
expected to rise as long as demand for net gain offsets continues to outstrip supply.
Delays to projects are being further exacerbated by the current requirement that works cannot
commence until offsets are assessed, sourced and secured. These timeframes create
difficulties as VicRoads' funding for road projects is often not confirmed until each budget
period, with the expectation from Government that works will commence in that financial
A lack of consistency of the application of these requirements by relevant referral and
approval authorities has also contributed to delays in the delivery of projects.
Other Issues
The nature of large road projects is that they frequently cross local government boundaries.
The differing standards or requirements between local councils adds to the administration and
compliance costs of these projects where planning permits are required for other
environmental impacts covered in Local Planning Schemes, such as planning overlays and the
Flora and Fauns Guarantee Act.
VicRoads notes VCEC's decision not to include cultural heritage legislation within the scope
of this Inquiry. However, the current requirement in the Aboriginal Heritage Act that a
cultural heritage management plan must be prepared for any activity for which an
Environment Effects Statement is also required, regardless of the heritage impacts of that
activity, seems unnecessarily onerous.
Native Vegetation
Modifying process requirements in relation to native vegetation removal and net gain to allow
steps to be undertaken concurrently rather than sequentially would create considerable
timeframe benefits. For example, to date there has been little flexibility in allowing
VicRoads, as a statutory agency, to enter into a commitment to continue to source and provide
net gain offsets whilst allowing project work to proceed. This essentially means that projects
are held up while offsets are sourced and secured, when this activity could be undertaken
while construction is underway.
Similarly the introduction of more outcomes based and flexible policy requirements under the
Native Vegetation Management Framework, rather than the heavily prescriptive approach that
currently exists, could facilitate more practical and efficient ways to achieve the State
Government's desired environmental outcomes.
VicRoads currently undertakes significant planting and revegetation on the 80,000 hectares of
roadside land associated with the road network. Recognition of this is not currently
contemplated within the Framework. Whilst it is recognised that the offset value of this
vegetation may not be as high as other native vegetation, given the lack of security in
comparison to other arrangements for vegetation offsets, it does provide an opportunity for
the development and implementation of a proactive response to meeting the objectives of the
Currently in Victoria, biodiversity values are protected under a number of different legislative
instruments and government policies (many of which are listed in Attachment 1 to the Issues
Paper). It would make it easier for proponents, and would potentially lead to better and more
consistent implementation, if these requirements were consolidated into one statute. This
would involve a similar exercise to that recently undertaken with the Water Act 1989.
Duplication in biodiversity approval processes is also required where projects may trigger the
provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth). For
example, because planning processes in Victoria are also utilised to assess the potential
impact of a project on fauna or flora of national significance, approval is required from both
the State and the Commonwealth.
The overall effect of this duplication is delays in delivery of projects which can in turn have
significant impacts on project costs. In the case of road projects that may be undertaken due to
safety concerns, it may result in additional serious accidents and/or fatalities until such stage
as approval is received.
While the implementation of best practice models may be effective in some areas, better
results may be obtained where regulatory authorities adopt an educative and supportive role to
facilitate greater compliance in addition to their enforcement role. The provision of ongoing
training and the fostering of effective working relationships with proponents and peak bodies
is an important part of this approach.
Similarly market-based approaches will only be effective in some circumstances. The Issues
Paper uses BushTender as an example of a successful market-based approach. However,
VicRoads' experience with BushBroker and BushTender has been that in many cases they
have not provided a competitive market or best value for money. As discussed above, this has
largely been due to a market situation where there is no competition (due to a lack of suitable
offset sites) and/or where demand significantly outweighs supply (due to the large number of
proponents needing to comply with the requirements of the Native Vegetation Management
Framework). This has led to an inflationary.environment where the cost of net gain offsets is
escalating at a significant rate.
Therefore, it is important if market-based models are to be used in the future that genuine
competition is created in the relevant market and that there is a balance maintained between
supply and demand.