Native vegetation retention

Blackburn forum - help protect your local habitat

Forum date : 17 January 2013

This forum was organised by the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria, the Victorian National Parks Association and the Environment Defenders Office. It focussed on the review of the Victorian native vegetation clearing regulations, and the possible outcome which may lead to dilution of the goals of the NV Framework - and thus increased loss of vegetation. The speakers were Yasmin Kelsall (VNPA) and Bruce Lindsay (EDO).

The speakers saw this review as important as the first broad based evaluation of the NV Framework. They described the way planning schemes and the underlining planning policy is a balancing act between competing interests and retaining native vegetation is just one of the primary desires. They outlined what has been achieved since 2002 based on information from the Discussion Paper, and information additional gained from FoI action. For example:

  • VCAT has enabled clearing in about 70% of cases refered to it.
  • The fundamental 3 step approach  (avoid first, minimise second and offset only as a last resort) has been diluted severely by excessive focus on step 3.
  • Only 3.5% of application have been refused (despite most being of H or VH conservation significance)
  • DSE First approximation report (2009) concluded a loss of 9900 habitat hectare per year (mainly private land) and a gain of 5000+ habitat hectare per year (mainly on public land)
  • Only 25% – 30% of applications seen by DSE. This suggest some 4500 – 6000 permit applications across Victoria per year

The 2012 Auditor Generals report Effectiveness of environmental compliance activities of DPI and DSE, concluded that “there is a lack of accountability, oversight and risk based compliance planning”.

The issues identified included:

  • Changing the NV management goal from “net gain” to “no net loss”
  • Seeing native vegetation retention only as an issue of biodiversity
  • Use of “Nature Print” method ok for strategic/landscape priroty setting but is not designed to evaluate individual sites
  • Offsets: much “fuzziness”; need to have localised offsetting; worry that a primary goal of the system is to build and “offsets” market.
  • How to get a whole of government approach.

VNPA/EDO discussions indicate that there is likely to be another round of consultation, but expect that the intentions may well be set by then with specification of proposed planning ammendments

The EDO are proposing a seminar on offsetting late in February

A suggestion was made at the meeting that groups with strong interest in NV retention could combine to produce an alternative consultation document to counterpoint the current documents.

 

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