The Victorian Government recognises the importance of agricultural production to the State’s economy, the environmental benefits from native vegetation on farms and the good work farmers do in protecting and managing this vegetation.

In Victoria, the removal of native vegetation is regulated and, unless an exemption applies, a permit is required to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation. These regulations are known as the native vegetation removal regulations and are primarily implemented through local planning schemes.

On this page, you can find general information about removing native vegetation in the Farming and Rural Activity Zones, and useful links.

If you wish to remove native vegetation, DELWP can answer any questions you have, and can help you prepare your planning permit application. You can contact the native vegetation team directly at nativevegetation.farming@delwp.vic.gov.au

The native vegetation removal regulations have recently been reviewed. The review examined how the regulations have been functioning since native vegetation reforms were introduced in 2013. The changes to the regulations make the system fairer.

Scattered trees are now categorised into two sizes, small and large, where previously they were all considered large. In addition, when mapping scattered trees, if there is any overlap of tree areas this will no longer be double counted. These changes will reduce the area of native vegetation that is proposed to be removed for many applications removing scattered trees, reducing their offset requirements and costs.

Several changes also reduce costs for offsetting on their properties farmers. These include:

  • the development of a template for section 173 agreements for offsets
  • introducing options to bank first party general offsets for use in the future

Change in assessment pathway thresholds

There are three assessment pathways for applications for permits to remove native vegetation: Basic, Intermediate and Detailed. The assessment pathway reflects the potential impact on biodiversity from removing native vegetation. These pathways are determined by:

  • the amount of native vegetation to be removed (in hectares)
  • whether the native vegetation to be removed is habitat for Victoria's rare or threatened species, or endangered or highly sensitive vegetation type
  • whether any large trees are to be removed

The area of native vegetation that can be removed without requiring a site assessment has been lowered. This is to make sure that there is a more detailed assessment when some potentially sensitive native vegetation is proposed to be removed.

This change is not expected to have a significant impact on farmers. However, if you feel your permit application has been negatively impacted by this change please contact the native vegetation team directly at nativevegetation.farming@delwp.vic.gov.au

The objective for the native vegetation removal regulations is ‘to ensure that there is no net loss to biodiversity as a result of the removal, destruction or lopping of native vegetation’. This is achieved through a three step approach; avoid, minimise and offset.

A planning permit is usually needed to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation (remove native vegetation).

In some cases, native vegetation removal is exempt from requiring a planning permit. Some activities that you may be able to do without a planning permit include:

  • removing native vegetation to build a boundary fence or maintain an existing fence on your land
  • collecting fallen timber or removing small trees less than 40cm diameter at breast height for personal use, e.g. for firewood or fencing
  • grazing stock
  • mowing or slashing grass for maintenance
  • lopping and pruning native vegetation for maintenance
  • removing regrowth that is less than 10 years’ old
  • removing planted native vegetation
  • removing native vegetation that poses an immediate risk to life or property
  • removing native vegetation around a dwelling for bushfire protection

There are extra exemptions that apply to land in the Farming and Rural Activity Zones. These exemptions mean you can remove limited amount of native vegetation without a planning permit to:

  • maintain existing agricultural buildings and works
  • construct new agricultural buildings and works
  • construct a new single dwelling

To check if there is an exemption from requiring a permit for the native vegetation you want to remove see the full table of exemptions at Clause 52.17-7 and Clause 52.16-8 of the planning schemes (http://planning-schemes.delwp.vic.gov.au/).

To rely on exemptions from needing a permit to remove native vegetation:

  1. Make sure the removal is eligible for the exemption, and that you can meet all the exemption conditions. These might include limits on how much native vegetation you can remove over a period of time.
  2. Check if there are any other planning permit requirements that apply to the activity or development for which you want to remove native vegetation (e.g. an environmental overlay).
  3. Make sure you only remove the minimum amount of native vegetation necessary.
  4. If you are removing native vegetation on someone else’s property or on public land, obtain the consent of the landowner or manager before you start the removal.

Your local council can assist with all of the above steps. Before undertaking any native vegetation removal that is exempt from a planning permit take photographs and keep records of correspondence from the council confirming that it is exempt.

Unless an exemption applies you usually need a planning permit from your local council to remove native vegetation. A quick guide of the permit application process and key steps is provided below. For more information on applying for a planning permit to remove native vegetation see the Applicant’s guide – applications to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation (PDF, 2.2 MB) or speak to your local council.

DELWP staff can provide assistance on preparing your application, including about help using the NVIM tool. Contact the native vegetation team directly at nativevegetation.farming@delwp.vic.gov.au

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I find out what other rules about native vegetation might apply to my property?

Check with your local council whether any schedule, Native Vegetation Precinct Plan or environmental overlay applies to your property. Check also whether the vegetation could be protected under other local, state or federal legislation.

Local councils use environmental overlays in areas where there are important environmental assets or risks that need to be considered if native vegetation is proposed to be removed (such as erosion). Where an environmental overlay is in place, some Clause 52.17-7 exemptions do not apply. Overlays may also require additional information to be provided when applying for a planning permit.

To see if any overlays apply to your property go to Planning Maps Online to access an interactive map. Search for your property by entering your address at: http://services.land.vic.gov.au/maps/pmo.jsp.

This map allows you to create and download a Planning Property Report that explains what zones and overlays apply to your property. Once you know what zone and overlays apply to your land, you can look at the planning permit requirements in the relevant section of your planning scheme online.

How do I avoid and minimise native vegetation removal?

Firstly, check if there are any alternatives to locate your activities or development to avoid areas of native vegetation on your property. If this is not possible, consider changing the design of your activity or development to minimise the amount of native vegetation you need to remove. In some circumstances, the removal of native vegetation may not be able to be avoided.

Native vegetation should only be removed after all suitable alternatives to avoid removal have been considered.

In all cases where removal cannot be avoided, then only the minimum amount necessary should be removed.

By avoiding and minimising removing native vegetation you also reduce the cost of offsetting this native vegetation removal.

How do I map the native vegetation I want to remove?

Before applying for a planning permit, you first need to map the native vegetation you want to remove using the online Native Vegetation Information Management (NVIM) native vegetation removal tool.

The Native Vegetation Information Management native vegetation removal tool (NVIM removal tool) is an online tool to view native vegetation information used in the regulations.

You can use the NVIM removal tool to map the native vegetation you propose to remove and determine your assessment pathway. The Applicants Guide explains how to use the tool.

This tool provides a report that you submit as part of a planning permit application. The report provides information about the assessment pathway for your application, and the offsets that you must provide if you are granted a permit to remove native vegetation.

The Applicants Guide explains how to use the NVIM removal tool and will help you to determine if the vegetation is native, how to identify a native canopy tree and its trunk circumference, and classify whether vegetation is a patch or a scattered tree.

Once you have mapped the native vegetation you propose to remove and have your report, contact your local council planning department to apply for a planning permit.

If your application is in the Detailed Assessment Pathway a site assessment is required, rather than the using  the NVIM tool. This is due to the potential impacts to biodiversity of your proposal.

Accredited native vegetation assessors are listed on DELWP’s Vegetation Quality Assessment Competency Register.

How do I offset native vegetation removal?

If a permit is granted to remove native vegetation, an offset is required to compensate for the impact that the removal has on biodiversity.

You can either purchase an offset from a third party, or provide an offset on your property (first party).

Offset brokers can help you to find third party offsets to purchase.

If you have sufficient native vegetation on your own property which you are willing to protect and manage, you may be able to use this as a first party offset.

How do I use native vegetation on my property as an offset?

DELWP recognises the good environmental works that many farmers do. If you have native vegetation on your property you may be able to use it to offset your removal.

As a guide, to meet offset requirements you will need to permanently protect and manage an area of native vegetation that is about two-to-four times bigger than the area of native vegetation you remove. This is because gain for offset sites is the improvement in quality of the vegetation resulting from management actions which would not have been otherwise undertaken, hence a larger area is required.  

You can use paddock trees on your property as offsets by fencing them off and ensuring each tree has another 5 healthy new trees established around it within 10 years.

To secure an offset on your property, you must be able to:

  • put a legal agreement on the title of your property that commits to permanently protect the native vegetation
  • manage the native vegetation by fencing it off and controlling weeds and pests
  • give up the right to remove dead native vegetation within the offset area, including dead trees or fallen timber for personal use.

You can set up an offset site and then draw down on these offsets over time for multiple future planning permits.

How do I get a site assessment report?

Due to the potential impacts to biodiversity a site assessment is required for all application in the Detailed Assessment Pathway. If your application is in the Detailed Assessment Pathway you need to appoint an accredited native vegetation assessor to complete a site assessment report for your application.

Accredited native vegetation assessors are listed on DELWP’s Vegetation Quality Assessment Competency Register.

Who can I talk to about my application?

For detailed advice about your particular circumstances, please contact your local council planning department.

Most local councils have information about applying for planning permits on their websites. Direct links to your council’s website are available here.

DELWP can also answer any questions you have, and can help you prepare your planning permit application. You can contact the native vegetation team directly at nativevegetation.farming@delwp.vic.gov.au

What is a Property Vegetation Plan?

A Property Vegetation Plan (PVP) provides for the strategic management of native vegetation for a single property over a ten-year period.  A PVP is a useful tool for landowners who wish to remove stages of native vegetation over time, including for timber harvesting. It reduces administrative burden as once the planning permit, that is valid for 10 years, is obtained the landowner can carry out their activities without the need to get further planning permits.

The PVP identifies areas of native vegetation that will be removed and how this removal will be offset.

A PVP is an agreement with the Secretary of DELWP pursuant to section 69 of the Conservation, Forests and Lands Act 1987.

Where can I find information about grants and other funding opportunities?

Landcare

Your local Landcare facilitator can provide information about grants and funding opportunities available in your local area.

To locate or find the contacts for a Landcare group or network near you, go to the Victorian Landcare Gateway website. Here, you will also find news from Landcare groups and networks, including up-coming volunteer activities and events, resources for groups and information on grants and projects.

Biodiversity On-ground Action - Community & Volunteer Action Grants

Community & Volunteer Action Grants funding aims to support practical community efforts to deliver conservation projects on public and private land.

The program supports a wide range of projects and activities that help to protect, improve and expand habitats for our native plants and animals. Support is also available for activities that address threats to local biodiversity values and help communities better understand and manage local native species and natural environments.

Further information on all grants programs offered through DELWP is available here.

Where can I find more information?

Most local councils have information about applying for planning permits on their websites. Direct links to your council’s website are available here.

For more information on applying for a planning permit to remove native vegetation see the Applicant’s guide – applications to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation. (PDF, 2.2 MB)

Information about establishing and selling offsets and the contact details for DELWP accredited offset brokers is available here.

General information and resources are also available here.

You can contact the native vegetation team directly at nativevegetation.farming@delwp.vic.gov.au

Supporting documents

Here is a fact sheet with useful information about native vegetation removal in the Farming and Rural Activity Zones.

Native vegetation removal in the Farming and Rural Activity Zones (PDF, 583.2 KB)

If you are preparing an application for a planning permit to remove native vegetation, this applicant’s kit provides useful information and guidance.

Applicant’s guide: applications to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation (PDF, 2.2 MB)

If you would like an accessible version of any published document, please contact nativevegetation.support@delwp.vic.gov.au