Native vegetation provides habitat for wildlife and delivers a range of ecosystem services that make land more productive and contribute to human well being.
Native vegetation clearing regulations
In Victoria, a permit is usually required to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation. These regulations are known as the native vegetation clearing regulations and are primarily implemented through local planning schemes.
In certain circumstances, alternate assessment and/or approvals processes are used to regulate the removal of native vegetation. This includes processes established by the Environment Effects Act 1978 and the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990.
The Permitted clearing of native vegetation – Biodiversity assessment guidelines (the Guidelines) outline how impacts on Victoria's biodiversity are assessed when a planning permit application to remove native vegetation is lodged. The Guidelines are an incorporated document in all Victorian planning schemes.
Permitted clearing of native vegetation – Biodiversity assessment guidelines (PDF, 694.4 KB)
Permitted clearing of native vegetation – Biodiversity assessment guidelines (DOC, 646.5 KB)
The Guidelines are applied alongside other requirements of the planning scheme when an application for a permit to remove native vegetation is considered by the responsible authority.
A permit to remove native vegetation does not replace any requirements under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Reforms to Victoria's native vegetation clearing regulations
On 20 December 2013, a planning scheme amendment was gazetted to implement a package of reforms to Victoria's native vegetation permitted clearing regulations. Further detail about the amendment can be found at Planning Scheme Amendments Online
A planning permit is required to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation, however there are exceptions. The Victoria Planning Provisions define native vegetation as plants that are indigenous to Victoria, including trees, shrubs, herbs and grasses.
A planning permit is required to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation unless:
- the removal is the result of a use that is not regulated by the planning scheme
- the planning scheme provides for the removal of native vegetation without a permit.
This can occur where:
- the removal of native vegetation is the result of the continuation of a lawful existing use for the purposes of Section 6(3) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987
- there is an exemption to the requirement for a permit for the purposes of clause 52.16 or 52.17 of the Victoria Planning Provisions
- the native vegetation is listed in a schedule to clause 52.17 within the relevant planning scheme.
For further information see the factsheet:
The Permitted clearing of native vegetation – Biodiversity assessment guidelines (the Guidelines) classify native vegetation into two categories: remnant patches and scattered trees.
A remnant patch of native vegetation is either:
- an area of native vegetation where at least 25 per cent of the total perennial understorey plant cover is native
- any area of with three or more canopy trees where the canopy foliage cover is at least 20 per cent of the area.
A scattered tree is a native canopy tree that does not form part of a remnant patch.
The guidelines do not apply to native vegetation which does not meet the definition of a remnant patch or scattered tree.
For further information see the factsheet:
Application for a planning permit to remove native vegetation
The Permitted clearing of native vegetation – Biodiversity assessment guidelines (the Guidelines) outline the planning permit application information requirements to remove native vegetation.
The application requirements depend on the risk-based assessment pathway used to assess the application to remove native vegetation. There are three risk-based assessment pathways:
- low risk
- moderate risk
- high risk
The risk-based assessment pathway for a planning permit application to remove native vegetation is determined by the amount of native vegetation proposed to be removed (in hectares or number of trees) and its location in the landscape.
The Native Vegetation Management Information (NVIM) system is available to help landholders determine the risk-based assessment pathway of their planning permit application to remove native vegetation.
The Permitted clearing of native vegetation -– Low risk-based pathway permit applicant's kit is available to assist landholders when preparing applications in the low risk-based pathway.
Permitted clearing of native vegetation - Low risk-based pathway permit applicant's kit (PDF, 297.6 KB)
Permitted clearing of native vegetation - Low risk-based pathway permit applicant's kit (DOCX, 1.8 MB)
Additional information is required when preparing applications under the moderate and high risk-based pathways, including a habitat hectare assessment report.
Further information is available in the fact sheet:
Applications for a permit to remove native vegetation must be lodged with the relevant responsible authority, which is usually the local council.
In addition to the application requirements for the native vegetation permitted clearing regulations, further information may be required by the local planning scheme.
The biodiversity considerations of all applications are assessed in accordance with the Permitted clearing of native vegetation – Biodiversity assessment guidelines.
Some applications to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation are required to be referred to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). All other applications will be assessed by the local council. Referred applications include those:
- where the area of the native vegetation to be removed 0.5 hectares or more
- in the high risk-based pathway
- where a property vegetation plan applies to the site
- on Crown land which is occupies or managed by the responsible authority
Please note: The Permitted clearing of native vegetation – Biodiversity assessment handbook provides additional information and biodiversity guidance for local government and DELWP staff when assessing applications. The current version of the Handbook is Version 1.0, May 2015. Version 0.2 is no longer in use.
Requirement for a native vegetation offset
If a planning permit or other lawful approval to remove native vegetation is granted, an offset that makes an equivalent contribution to Victoria's biodiversity will be required.
Offset requirements are determined in accordance with Permitted clearing of native vegetation – Biodiversity assessment guidelines.
The offset requirement will outline:
- the type of offset to be provided
- the amount of offset to be provided
- any specific attributes the offset must have
- where the offset can be located.
The offset requirement will depend on the nature of the loss that results from the permitted clearing.
What can be an offset
An offset can be one, or a combination of the following:
- improvement in the condition of existing vegetation with ongoing management and protection using an appropriate security arrangement
- revegetation of a site with ongoing management and protection using an appropriate security arrangement.
Note there are restrictions on when revegetation can be considered an offset.
The Native vegetation gain scoring manual sets out the rules regarding site eligibility, offset security and how gain from an offset is calculated.
In most cases, a habitat hectare assessment is required to calculate gain.
Permit holders can deliver offsets on their own land (also known as a first party offset) or purchase a native vegetation credit from a third party.
Third party offsets
Third party offsets provide an opportunity for parties seeking a permit to clear native vegetation, to meet their offset obligation through the purchase of native vegetation credits (credits) from a third party.
These credits are created on sites of native vegetation that have been secured and are managed in perpetuity to achieve a gain in the extent (through revegetation) and/or condition (through improved management).
The Native Vegetation Credit Register regulates the establishment, sale and ownership of credits.
Permit holders who are seeking a third party offset can contact an accredited broker to help them. A number of DELWP accredited brokers can provide these services. These organisations and individuals can help explain the process of purchased credits and provide the appropriate documents to the Native Vegetation Credit Register.
Landowners who wish to establish native vegetation offset sites on their property for trade in the third party market, can contact either an accredited site assessor, or Trust for Nature to assess their site and prepare a management agreement.
Native Vegetation Credit Register accredited brokers and site assessors:
Options for purchasing third party offsets are outlined in the fact sheet:
The Native Vegetation Credit Register keeps a record of credits that are currently available for third party trading, as well as the contact details of offset brokers who can assist in the purchase of credits. The attached spreadsheet contains the following information:
- Traded credits, date traded and trade price
- DELWP accredited broker and site assessor contact details who can assist in the purchase of credit
First party general offset kit
The first party general offset kit assists landholders who are removing native vegetation and wish to secure a general offset on their own land.
The kit sets out the offset eligibility criteria, and the minimum management commitments and security requirements needed to create a first party general offset.
The following offset management plan templates are to be used when securing a first party general offset in accordance with the first party general offset kit.
The first party general offset calculator calculates the gain generated from the management and security commitments at a first party general offset site. Instructions for use are included in the calculator. Note this calculator can only be used for first party general offset sites.
A yearly condition report must be provided for a first party general offset site. Use this template to complete a yearly offset condition report.
Alternative Offset Arrangements
This guidance note outlines what is considered an acceptable alternative offset arrangement for specific offsets as provided for in Section 9.4.6 of the Permitted clearing of native vegetation - Biodiversity assessment guidelines, DEPI 2013 (Guidelines).
It also outlines the required process for seeking approval of an alternative specific offset arrangement.
In Victoria, a planning permit is required to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation, unless:
- there is an exemption to the requirement for a permit in the planning scheme
- the native vegetation is listed in a schedule to clause 52.17 in the relevant planning scheme
- the removal of native vegetation is the result of the continuation of a lawful existing use for the purposes of Section 6(3) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987.
Your local council planning department can provide more information about when a permit is required for the removal of native vegetation, or whether an exemption may apply. Planning Schemes Online provides access to all approved planning schemes in Victoria.
Exemption to the requirement for a permit to remove native vegetation
Tables of exemptions are set out in Clauses 52.16 and 52.17 of all Victorian planning schemes. These exemptions allow landowners to remove some native vegetation in certain circumstances without the need for a planning permit. In addition, specific bushfire protection exemptions are listed in Clause 52.48. If the removal of native vegetation is covered by an exemption under Clause 52.48, no planning permit is required under Clause 52.16 or Clause 52.17.
Most exemptions are narrowly defined to prevent the removal of excessive amounts of native vegetation without a permit. Before removing native vegetation without a permit, ensure that the removal is eligible for an exemption, and is consistent with any conditions specific to the exemption.
Activities which may be exempt from the requirement for a permit in certain circumstances include:
- removing wood for personal use
- mowing or slashing of grass for maintenance
- lopping and pruning for maintenance
- removing planted vegetation
- removing regrowth less than 10 years old
- removing native vegetation on a site less than 0.4 hectare in area.
On land where planning overlays apply, some exemptions may not be available, check with your local council before undertaking works to remove native vegetation.
If you propose to remove native vegetation on another person’s land or public land, you must seek the relevant land owner consent.
Exemptions for clearing around dwellings for bushfire protection and fence line maintenance
In September 2009 the Victorian government introduced the 10/30 rule for clearing of native vegetation around buildings used for accommodation. In implementing the recommendations of the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission, the 10/30 rule will remain in place and the 10/50 rule has been introduced in areas where the bushfire hazard is greatest as identified by the new Bushfire Management Overlay. This is in keeping with the Commission's view that the ability to remove vegetation for fire protection should be more closely aligned with risk.
Information to help determine whether the 10/30 rule or 10/50 rule applies to your property is included in the fact sheets below.
Making Victoria Fire Ready: 10/30 Rule, 10/50 Rule and fence line clearing factsheet - Frequently Asked Questions (PDF, 113.3 KB)
Making Victoria Fire Ready: 10/30 Rule, 10/50 Rule and fence line clearing factsheet - Frequently Asked Questions (DOCX, 98.3 KB)
Fire protection exemption for road managers
In response to recommendations made by the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, an exemption is available under clause 52.17-6 of the Victoria Planning Provisions for road managers to remove native vegetation along roadsides without the requirement for a planning permit. The exemption provides for a broad range of fire mitigation treatments to be undertaken on roadsides to reduce threats to life and property from bushfires. The exemption is subject to an agreement to ensure that supporting documentation is provided by road managers. This includes a work plan.
The Roadside vegetation management for bushfire mitigation purposes - guideline for road managers has been prepared for road managers using the exemption.
Roadside vegetation management for bushfire mitigation purposes guideline for road managers (PDF, 450.6 KB)
Roadside vegetation management for bushfire mitigation purposes guideline for road managers (DOC, 768.5 KB)
Terramatrix Pty Ltd has developed the Road Bushfire Risk Assessment Guideline to assist road managers in undertaking the risk assessment process as described in the Roadside vegetation management for bushfire mitigation purposes - guideline for road managers.
A template has been provided to assist road managers in the preparation of a work plan to meet the requirements of the agreement.
- your local council planning department
- our Customer Service Centre on 136 186
- Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667
Native vegetation credits are gains in the quality and/or quantity of native vegetation that is subject to a secure and ongoing agreement registered on the land title.
Landholders can also generate credits by transferring freehold land to the Crown parks and reserves system. Native vegetation credits are generally acquired in order to be used to meet an offset requirement.
The Native Vegetation Credit Register's aims is to improve consistency in the standards for native vegetation credits and transparency in how credits are traded and used across Victoria.
This willThe register provides greater certainty for credit buyers that the credits for sale are owned by the credit seller, and are suitable to be used as an offset. Local councils can feel confident that credits are not used more than once to meet an offset requirement.
The Native Vegetation Credit Register sets minimum standards for security and management of sites used to generate native vegetation credits. This ensures that credits generated under different security agreements are equivalent. It also ensures that landowners and officers monitoring compliance with security agreements clearly understand what standard must be achieved for any given management action.
The Native Vegetation Credit Register undertakes quality assurance to ensure consistency with all native vegetation credits that are generated and traded. It provides certainty to prospective credit owners that the credits are suitable as offsets (provided that they meet the type of offset as specified in a planning permit).
The Native Vegetation Credit Register enables organisations to 'bank' native vegetation credits for future trade or use. This approach is particularly useful for organisations who undertake projects that regularly undertake native vegetation removal, and can make forward projections about what types of offsets they may require in the future.
Credit banking provides surety to organisations that the offsets they require are there when they need them. If more credits are banked than required for a particular project, there is potential for an organisation to sell the remaining credits.
The Native Vegetation Credit Register records the ownership, trading and use of native vegetation credits in Victoria. DELWP has responsibility for maintaining the register.
The following information sheets describe the Native Vegetation Credit Register as well as registering, trading and allocating native vegetation credits:
Native Vegetation Credit Register - Information Sheet 2 - Registering native vegetation credits (PDF, 86.7 KB)
Native Vegetation Credit Register - Information Sheet 2 - Registering native vegetation credits (DOC, 123.5 KB)
Native Vegetation Credit Register - Information Sheet 3 - Trading native vegetation credits (PDF, 82.5 KB)
Native Vegetation Credit Register - Information Sheet 3 - Trading native vegetation credits (DOC, 120.0 KB)
Native Vegetation Credit Register - Information Sheet 4 - Allocating native vegetation credits (PDF, 83.9 KB)
Native Vegetation Credit Register - Information Sheet 4 - Allocating native vegetation credits (DOC, 121.5 KB)