Natural Resources Management
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The management of the natural resources in our municipality is shared by all levels of government as well as agencies, organisations and individuals. In particular State government legislation on Native Vegetation Removal and related regulations incorporated in Council’s Planning Scheme aim to protect our natural resources from inappropriate use and development. Our natural resources of soil, vegetation, water, biodiversity have been severely degraded since European settlement and maintaining and enhancing our natural resources in light of the effects of climate change will be challenging.
Native vegetation removal in Victoria is subject to an avoid, minimise and offset process which is described in Victoria’s “Native Vegetation Management: A Framework for Action” document. These principles are reflected in the Planning Scheme which requires applicants requesting native vegetation removal to address the 3 principles and to list how offsets for native vegetation removal contribute to a net gain in vegetation by securing and managing remnants or through revegetation activities.
All native vegetation is now protected, and can generally only be removed, lopped or destroyed with the permission gained through a planning process. Native vegetation is defined in all planning schemes as plants that are indigenous (locally native) to Victoria, including trees, shrubs, herbs and grasses.
There is a list of vegetation removal situations which are exempted from requiring a planning permit. Details of exemptions such as clearing vegetation for bushfire safety and along fence lines are quite complicated so advice should be sought from Council.
Landholders planning to do any work that will impact on native vegetation, either on their own property, on roadsides, on Crown land, or along water frontages, must call Council’s Planning staff on 5355 0200. Landholders and others who fail to comply with these laws are liable for prosecution and, in addition, may be required to carry out extensive restitution works to replace the vegetation they have removed.
Our region contains a number of rare and threatened plants, plant communities and fauna species, which emphasises the need for planning permits under State Legislation for any vegetation removal and the “avoid” principle as a priority. Additionally, across much of our municipality there are the Federally protected Victorian Volcanic Plains Natural Temperate Grassland and Grassy Eucalypt Woodland vegetation communities. With less than 1% of its original extent remaining, every remnant area is extremely valuable. Much of the remaining vegetation lies on roadsides. It is protected under Federal Government Environment Protection and Bio-diversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. Many of the wetlands in our municipality are rated as having National Importance.
Council’s Roadside Management Strategy emphasises the importance of remnants on our roadsides and their role as corridors and links across the landscape. Roadside management focuses on minimising the impacts of road works, maintaining the values of roadsides by managing the spread of weeds and educating the public about roadside vegetation values.
DSE has useful information mapped and available on the Ecological Vegetation Communities (EVC) for all properties, a Benchmark list of plants for each EVC and threatened species on their Biodiversity Interactive Mapping website
The Wimmera and the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authorities, community groups such as the Field Naturalist Club, Landcare groups, farming organisations, the Department of Primary Industries, Parks Victoria and individual landholders all have important roles to play in ensuring the sustainable management of our natural resources.