We’re in interesting times as we are all getting to find out a little more about the new native vegetation regulations and how they are to work.
Offsets in short supply
Although the front end of the new system has been slowly swinging into action, i.e. applications are now arriving and being processed by council, the same can’t be said for offset provision.
It seems that whilst councils will be able to issue permits that require offsets to be provided to meet the new offset requirements, offset providers are yet to be informed about what their existing offsets are worth under the new system, i.e. there are no offsets available for any permits issued requiring Biodiversity Equivalence Units! We have been told that these converted figures will be provided within the fortnight for many months now.
Whilst DEPI have now been relegated to only being a referral authority there is a lot more responsibility that will fall onto local government regarding how decisions are to be made, since local government will not necessarily have to pass on recommendations made by DEPI for inclusion in a permit.
The EDO has recently written a great blog piece that summarises the current situation and describes how remarkable it all is.
Callout for case studies
These are the early days of the new regulations and we’re interested to hear of any cases where the new regulations are failing to protect Victoria’s biodiversity. We know that the location risk map is a pretty poor excuse for protection and we will begin to see planning applications being approved when they may not have in the past.
We’re asking you to let us know if you see/hear of any of these cases. We’re looking at options for how best to utilise this information as it inevitably comes to hand and can discuss the options with you.
In particular, if you are part of an environment group that knows your patch, it might now be time to allocate someone to take a look every week at the planning applications on exhibition on your local government website to see if there is anything coming through that should be considered.
Breaking News — regulations do not have bi-partisan support
The Greens raised a motion to disallow the new regulations in the upper house in February, the merits of which were debated in Parliament on the 19th Feb. Although the motion was defeated, Labor aligned with the Greens in support of it and we take some heart from this in that it confirms that the new regulations do not have bi-partisan support. For those that are interested in such things, you can read the Hansard transcript.
Yasmin Kelsall, Victorian National Parks Association YasminK@vnpa.org.au