The EDO has made a submission to a Review on native vegetation regulation being undertaken by the Victorian Government. The Government has put forward a range of reform proposals in a recent Consultation Paper on the subject.
The signficance of this Review is, among other things, it will likely impact on the Government policy framework protecting native vegetation as well as the legal and planning regime in place to do that. At present, protections for native vegetation mainly operate through the Victorian planning system.
The EDO published a monitoring report on the performance of native vegetation policy last year, A Framework for Action?, which highlighted the gap between the policy goal of achieving an overall ‘net gain’ in the quality and extent of native vegetation in Victoria and actual achievements under the policy over the past decade. The Consultation Paper also identifies this gap between policy and reality.
In his foreword, the Minister for Environment states that the review is intended to ‘improve the government’s performance as an environmental regulator’, which is a laudatory goal but will find limited success under many of Consultation Paper proposals. Those proposals include significantly easier access to native vegetation clearing in the large majority of cases. These are considered ‘low risk’ cases. This would not contribute to better performance. It would rather contribute to the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ approach affecting the system at the moment.
The EDO has included in its recommendations for reform in this area:
- the need to reaffirm the priority given to avoiding and minimising the clearance and loss of native vegetation, as distinct from clearing and ‘offsetting’ the loss elsewhere;
- the need to give greater legal force and protection to remnant native vegetation;
- the need for a much more effective and better resourced approach to compliance and enforcement of native vegetation protection;
- stronger ecological outcomes in circumstances were native vegetation is cleared and ‘offset’ elsewhere