Native vegetation management and Local Government
A Victorian example by Nina Rogers*
The statistics are concerning. An estimated 66 per cent of Victoria’s native vegetation has been cleared over the past 170 years. On private land, 92 per cent of native vegetation has been removed. Protecting, managing and restoring native vegetation are seen as key to protecting the long term productive capacity and environmental values of land and water resources.
Statewide planning controls for native vegetation retention have been in place in Victoria since 1989, and these have had a major impact on the extent of clearing. Now the Native Vegetation Management Framework (2002) is introducing a more sophisticated approach to native vegetation assessment and management, including the application of the concept of ‘net gain’ by Local Government.
The Municipal Association of Victoria has released a report titled, Native Vegetation Management and Local Government, looking at the capacity of Local Government in Victoria to undertake native vegetation management, recognising that the sector has faced considerable difficulty in fulfilling its existing responsibilities in this area.
The report details the costs and capacity building needs of Victorian non metropolitan Local Governments for native vegetation management, with a particular emphasis on the statutory planning system.
On a positive note, Victorian councils continue to demonstrate innovation and leadership in introducing and maintaining diverse programs and projects for native vegetation management. The majority of Victorian rural and regional councils have voluntarily completed, or are preparing a roadsides management plan with a focus on protecting biodiversity and native vegetation on roadsides.
Further, councils are actively working to support community and landholder education and training, providing financial incentives to landholders for improved land management, and using special protection measures for native vegetation in their planning schemes.
The report also found that resource constraints in many councils have resulted in staffing levels that are inadequate to administer increasingly complex planning controls over native vegetation. It identified a need for greater consistency between councils in the assessment and decision making relating to removal of native vegetation. The report also notes the confusion in roles between councils and various State departments for the processing of clearing applications.
Copies of the report are available on the Municipal Association of Victoria web site at www.mav.asn.au or by contacting Nina Rogers on (03) 9667 5519, email email@example.com
* Nina Rogers is Manager Environment Policy and Programs with the Municipal Association of Victoria.