Earlier in the week, one of our Collie staff attended a VEPLA seminar on the recent native vegetation reforms to the Victorian Planning Provisions under Amendment VC138. A number of speakers presented on the topic including from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Bass Coast Shire Council (Council) and a range of consultants experienced in the field.
The general consensus amongst the presenters was that the inclusion of sensitive wetlands and coastal areas for protection was a positive as were improvements to the mapping of native vegetation. Other positives identified are the ability for applicants applying to remove small amounts of native vegetation (less than 0.5 hectare) to do so without the need for specialist input. The requirement for all native vegetation, removal applications irrespective of size, to justify what has been done to avoid and minimise removal, was seen as logical.
Similar to the former native vegetation provisions, a concern raised by many of the speakers was the limited guidance for decision makers on when and when not to issue a planning permit to allow for the removal of high value native vegetation if there is no feasible alternative for its retention. We echo these concerns and would welcome any provision of more certainty within the planning system. We acknowledge however, that considering the removal of high value native vegetation is complex and, as with heritage matters, often requires the assessment of a proposal to justify removal, if needs to be considered on a case by case basis.
While some things change some stay the same!