Native Vegetation Clearing - Assessment Guidelines

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Native vegetation clearingAssessment guidelinesDraft – November 2016

DRAFT The State of Victoria Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning 2016This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence. You are free to re-use thework under that licence, on the condition that you credit the State of Victoria as author. The licence does not applyto any images, photographs or branding, including the Victorian Coat of Arms, the Victorian Government logoand the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) logo. To view a copy of this licence, by Finsbury Green, Melbourne.ISBN 978-1-76047-329-7 (print)ISBN 978-1-76047-330-3 (pdf)DisclaimerThis publication may be of assistance to you but the State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that thepublication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims allliability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication.AccessibilityIf you would like to receive this publication in an alternative format, pleasetelephone the DELWP Customer Service Centre on 136 186, or, or via the National Relay Service on 133 677, This document is also available on the internet

Department of Environment, Land, Water and PlanningContent2. of these Assessment guidelines41.2Scope41.3Describing the value of native vegetation4Native vegetation and Victoria’s planning system62.1Strategic planning62.2Site-based permit process72.3The three step approach7DRAFT1.Native vegetation information83.1Definition of native vegetation83.2Measuring the biodiversity value of native vegetation8Applications124.1Assessment pathway124.2Site assessment144.3Referral of applications144.4Application requirements144.5Decision guidelines164.6Assessment guidance18Native vegetation offsets215.1Determining offset requirements215.2Gain255.3Offset site eligibility26Alternative and transitional arrangements276.1Use of site-based information to supplement mapped information276.2Alternative arrangements for specific offset requirements276.3Offsets for native forest timber harvesting276.4Transitional arrangements27Glossary28Native vegetation clearing - Assessment guidelines3

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning1. IntroductionFor the purpose of these Assessment guidelines, theterm ‘remove native vegetation’ includes to destroyand to lop native vegetation.1.1Purpose of these AssessmentguidelinesThe purpose of these Assessment guidelines is todescribe how native vegetation removal is managedin planning and decision making under the Planningand Environment Act 1987 (P&E Act). Where a personhas breached or failed to comply with the P&E Act,the planning scheme or a planning permit they maybe liable for certain penalties. This could take theform of a planning infringement notice, a VCATenforcement order 1 or prosecution under the P&E Act.These Assessment guidelines detail the following: Section 2 describes how Victoria’s planning systemmanages native vegetation Section 3 describes how native vegetation isdefined and how the value of native vegetation ismeasured Section 4 describes the assessment pathways,application requirements, decision guidelines andhow to make a decision on an application underClauses 52.16 and 52.17 Section 5 describes how offsets are determinedand what is eligible as an offset Section 6 describes alternative and transitionalarrangements.141.2ScopeThese Assessment guidelines describe howbiodiversity information is used when assessing anapplication to remove native vegetation underClauses 52.16 or 52.17. Planning and responsibleauthorities must take account of and give effect tothe decision guidelines in section 4.5, along with allother relevant parts of the planning scheme. Thisincludes the relevant zones, overlays, local controlsfor removing native vegetation and Clause 65Decision guidelines. Clause 65 requires considerationof the State Planning Policy Framework and LocalPlanning Policy Framework, including the MunicipalStrategic Statement and local planning policies thataddress matters of local biodiversity.DRAFTThe Native vegetation clearing – assessmentguidelines (Assessment guidelines) are incorporatedinto the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planningschemes in Victoria. The Assessment guidelinesreplace the previous incorporated document titledPermitted clearing of native vegetation – Biodiversityassessment guidelines (Department of Environmentand Primary Industries, September 2013). TheAssessment guidelines should be read with theAssessment handbook – native vegetation clearing,available on the Department of Environment, Land,Water and Planning (DELWP) website, which includesmore details and will be updated as required byongoing improvements.Under the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998.Native vegetation clearing - Assessment guidelinesThese Assessment guidelines can also be used whenassessing impacts of activities that are exempt fromrequiring a planning permit to remove nativevegetation but are assessed under alternativeapproval processes.Compliance with, assessment of and granting of apermit under these Assessment guidelines andClause 52.16 or 52.17 does not ensure compliance withother legislation, particularly the Flora and FaunaGuarantee Act 1988 or the Environmental Protectionand Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.DELWP proudly acknowledges Victoria’sAboriginal communities and their richculture and pays respects to their Elderspast and present. DELWP recognisesAboriginal people as the Traditional Ownersand custodians of the land. TraditionalOwners have an intrinsic connection toCountry and contribute to the managementof land, water and native vegetation.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning1.3Describing the value of native vegetationThe value of native vegetation is described in terms of ‘biodiversity value’ and ‘other values’. These values arelisted in Table 1. The way they are used is described in section 3 and section value of native vegetation1.3.2Other values of native vegetationNative vegetation has an important role in land andwater protection. It helps control soil erosion andmaintain land stability by protecting soil andstream banks. Native vegetation reduces landdegradation and salinity and improves waterquality and availability.Native vegetation is key to maintaining Victoria’sbiodiversity as it forms the basis of Victoria’secological communities. Native vegetation provideshabitat for a diversity of native flora and faunaspecies and most of Victoria’s rare or threatenedspecies rely on the presence of native vegetation fortheir survival. It also provides important connectionsor wildlife corridors that link larger areas of habitat ina fragmented landscape.Aboriginal culture includes relationships to nativevegetation and the land. These relationships holdphysical, social, spiritual and cultural significanceand carry obligations and responsibilities for caringfor and sharing of country. These links continue todayand Aboriginal people retain an affinity with alllandscapes.DRAFTBiodiversity includes all components of the living world:the variety of plants, animals and other living thingsacross land, rivers, coasts and oceans. It includes thediversity of their genetic information, the habitats andecosystems they live in, and their connections withother life forms and the natural world.Table 1: Describing the value of native vegetationBiodiversity value of native vegetationOther values of native vegetationValues used to determine biodiversity score: Land and water protection Extent of native vegetation Identified landscape values Vegetation condition Native vegetation protected under theAboriginal Heritage Act 2006 Strategic biodiversity value Habitat for rare or threatened species*Additional values considered when making a decision: Endangered Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVCs) Sensitive wetlands and coastal areas Large trees* ‘Rare or threatened species’ includes species listed as critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable or rare on Advisory Lists maintainedby the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.Native vegetation clearing - Assessment guidelines5

2. Native vegetation and Victoria’splanning systemThe planning system has two key tools for managingnative vegetation – strategic planning and thesite-based permit process.In addition to zones and overlays, two planning toolsprovide for the strategic management of nativevegetation:Strategic planning is the most effective tool foridentifying potential adverse impacts of new usesand developments on biodiversity and for ensuringadverse impacts are avoided and/or minimised. Native Vegetation Precinct Plans – for a group ofpropertiesThe site-based permit process for removing nativevegetation complements strategic planning byproviding rules about:2.1.1 Property Vegetation Plans – for a single property.DRAFTNative Vegetation Precinct Plans avoiding and minimising impacts on biodiversity orother values when removing native vegetation offsetting any adverse impact that is permittedto occur.Clause 12.01 of the State Planning Policy Framework(SPPF) addresses strategic planning and the sitebased permit process as follows: Protection of biodiversity (Clause 12.01-1). Sets theoverall direction for how land use planning assiststhe protection and conservation of Victoria’sbiodiversity. Native vegetation management (Clause 12.01-2).Supports the management of native vegetationthrough the permit process, including theassessment of impacts on the values of nativevegetation and provision of offsets to ensure nonet loss to biodiversity.2.1Strategic planningStrategic planning can be effective in protectingareas of high biodiversity value and identifyingimportant linkages and revegetation opportunities.Strategic planning usually takes place at a largerscale than the site-based permit process. It setsclear expectations for where use and developmentcan and should occur.Decisions on avoiding areas with high biodiversityand other values are best made during the strategicplanning stage, when planning controls (such aszones or overlays) that identify the long term use ordevelopment of the land are established via aplanning scheme amendment. During this stageproposed new developments can be designed toprotect native vegetation.6Native vegetation clearing - Assessment guidelinesA Native Vegetation Precinct Plan (NVPP) providesfor the management of native vegetation in aprecinct. It identifies the native vegetation that canbe removed and retained, based on the biodiversityand other values of the native vegetation. The NVPPmay be a stand-alone document or form part of aPrecinct Structure Plan. It is developed within thebroader strategic planning objectives for theprecinct.Clause 52.16 applies to land if a NVPP correspondingto the land is incorporated in the planning scheme.There is no need to obtain individual planningpermits to remove native vegetation under Clause52.16 if the removal is in accordance with anincorporated NVPP. Clause 52.17 does not apply toland where a NVPP applies.For a NVPP to be considered for incorporation underClause 52.16 it must include the information outlinedin Clause 52.16-3 Native vegetation precinct plansand should be developed in accordance with theseAssessment guidelines.2.1.2Property Vegetation PlansA Property Vegetation Plan (PVP) is defined in Clause72 of planning schemes as:A plan which relates to the management ofnative vegetation within a property, and which iscontained within an agreement made pursuantto section 69 of the Conservation, Forests andLands Act 1987.A PVP can form part of a property management planor whole farm plan, or be a stand-alone document. APVP should be prepared in accordance with therelevant PVP template.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and PlanningA PVP provides for the longer term, strategicmanagement of native vegetation within a specificproperty. It identifies all native vegetation on theproperty, and can be used to identify areas ofexisting and future use and development that requirethe removal of native vegetation. The PVP alsoidentifies actions that the landowner must undertaketo offset any permitted clearing of native vegetation.A use or development has successfully avoided theremoval, destruction or lopping of native vegetationwhen there are no impacts on biodiversity or othervalues. This is achieved by locating or designing adevelopment so that native vegetation is notremoved. When the removal of native vegetation isavoided a planning permit is not required underClause 52.16 or 52.17.2) MinimiseA use or development can minimise impacts onbiodiversity and other values from the removal ofnative vegetation by designing and locating theproposed use or development to reduce the removalof native vegetation, or managing the proposed useor development to minimise any offsite impacts onbiodiversity. If the use or development was subject toa strategic planning process that minimised impactsno further minimisation is required.DRAFTAn application under Clause 52.17 must include acopy of any PVP that applies to the site as part of theapplication requirements. The permit applicationand approval process is streamlined because theassessment of impacts and the determination andidentification of offsets in the PVP is done inaccordance with these Assessment guidelines.Any permit granted when a PVP applies has a tenyear validity.1) Avoid2.2Site-based permit processImpacts from the removal of native vegetation areconsidered principally through Clause 52.16 NativeVegetation Precinct Plan and Clause 52.17 NativeVegetation. The clauses are supported by theseAssessment guidelines that are incorporated in allplanning schemes at Clause 81.01.The objectives for native vegetation management are:To ensure appropriate consideration of theimpacts on biodiversity and other values fromthe removal, destruction or lopping of nativevegetation.To ensure permitted clearing of native vegetationresults in no net loss to biodiversity.These objectives are achieved by applying thefollowing three step approach:Avoid the removal, destruction or lopping ofnative vegetation.Minimise impacts from the removal, destructionor lopping of native vegetation that cannot beavoided.Provide an offset if a permit is granted to remove,destroy or lop native vegetation.2.3The three step approachThe three step approach should be applied in a waythat supports the objectives for native vegetationmanagement as defined in Clause 12.01-2.Information on how to apply the three step approachis provided below.Effort to minimise impacts should be commensuratewith the biodiversity or other values of the nativevegetation and should be targeted to reduce theimpacts on areas of native vegetation with greatestvalue. Further detail on steps to avoid and minimiseimpacts on biodiversity or other values of nativevegetation is provided in section OffsetAn offset is used to compensate the loss tobiodiversity from the removal of native vegetation.An offset is an undertaking to protect and managenative vegetation in another location. Theseprotection and management actions improve thecondition of the native vegetation, this is called ‘gain’.To ensure no net loss, the gain in biodiversity value(the offset) must be equivalent to the loss inbiodiversity value from the removal of nativevegetation.The ability to secure an offset does not guaranteea permit will be granted. When deciding whether togrant a permit to remove native vegetation, theimpacts on biodiversity and other values must beappropriately considered. If the removal of nativevegetation will have an unacceptable impact onbiodiversity or other values of the native vegetation,further efforts to avoid or minimise impacts may berequired, or a permit may not be granted. This isdescribed in section 4.6.Native vegetation clearing - Assessment guidelines7

3. Native vegetation information3.1Definition of native vegetationNative vegetation is defined in the Victoria PlanningProvisions as ‘plants that are indigenous to Victoria,including trees, shrubs, herbs and grasses’ 2.In these Assessment guidelines, native vegetation isfurther classified as either a patch or a scattered tree.PatchA patch of native vegetation is defined as:3.2Measuring the biodiversity valueof native vegetationMeasuring the biodiversity value of native vegetationis important to inform decisions about: where to focus efforts to avoid and minimiseimpacts from the removal of native vegetationDRAFT An area of vegetation where at least 25 per cent ofthe total perennial understorey plant cover isnative3An offset as determined by section 5.1 is notrequired if the native vegetation to be removed isnot a patch or a scattered tree. However, therelevant application requirements and decisionguidelines must still be applied, as appropriate. Any area with three or more native canopy trees4where the canopy foliage cover5 is at least 20 percent of the area Any mapped wetland included in the currentwetlands layer in Biodiversity Interactive Map (BIM)(or its successor).Scattered treeA scattered tree is defined as: A native canopy tree that does not form part of apatch. whether a permit should be granted to removenative vegetation offset requirements if native vegetation ispermitted to be removed.This section provides an overview of the informationused to measure the biodiversity value of nativevegetation. Site-based information can be measuredor observed at a site.Landscape scale information cannot be measured orobserved at the site and is included in maps andmodels. The Native vegetation clearing – biodiversityinformation products document available on theDELWP website has more detailed information.DELWP has developed the native vegetation clearingregulations tool in the Native Vegetation InformationManagement (NVIM) and Environmental SystemsModelling Platform (EnSym) systems. These tools areused by applicants and DELWP to determine thebiodiversity value of the native vegetation to beremoved and the offset requirements to ensure nonet loss to biodiversity.Mapped products used in the regulations areavailable in the Map tool in NVIM and in theBiodiversity Interactive Map at Planning Provision – Definitions – Clause 72.3Areas that include non-vascular vegetation (such as mosses and lichens) but otherwise support no native vascular vegetation are notconsidered to be a patch for the purposes of these Assessment guidelines. However, when non-vascular vegetation is present withvascular vegetation, it does contribute to cover when determining the percentage of perennial understorey plant cover.4A native canopy tree is a mature tree that is greater than 3 metres in height and is normally found in the upper layer of the relevantvegetation type.5Foliage cover is the proportion of the ground that is shaded by vegetation foliage when lit from directly above.8Native vegetation clearing - Assessment guidelines

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning3.2.1Site-based informationExtentThe extent of native vegetation is the area of landcovered by a patch and/or a scattered tree,measured in hectares. To determine the extent of ascattered tree it is assigned a standard area basedon the size of the tree. Scattered trees are classedinto two sizes small and large. A small scattered treeis mapped as a circle with a 10 metre radius and alarge scattered tree is mapped as a circle with a 15metre radius6.The condition score of a patch is determined by anaccredited native vegetation assessor completing ahabitat hectare assessment, as described in theVegetation Quality Assessment Manual10. Scatteredtrees identified by an accredited native vegetationassessor are assigned a standard condition scoreof 0.20.A map of modelled condition scores across Victoriahas been developed from site assessed data. This isshown in the native vegetation condition map.Ecological Vegetation ClassesEcological Vegetation Classes (EVCs) are thestandard unit for classifying native vegetation typesin Victoria. EVCs are described by a combination offloristics, lifeforms and ecological characteristics.EVCs include a benchmark for the characteristics ofthe vegetation type in its mature, natural (pre-1750)state. The modelled distribution of EVCs in Victoria isincluded in EVC maps. An EVC has a bioregionalconservation status of endangered, vulnerable,depleted, least concern or rare.DRAFTThe extent of native vegetation to be removed iscalculated by adding the extent of patches(including mapped wetlands) and the assignedextent of scattered trees together. This extent mustinclude all areas of native vegetation to be impactedby proposed use and development, includingvegetation that is “deemed lost” as described in theAssessment handbook - native vegetation clearing.Any area of overlap between the assigned extent ofscattered trees is well the native vegetation can sustain itself andthe species that live in it.Large treesA large tree is a native canopy tree with a Diameterat Breast Height (DBH)7 greater than or equal to thelarge tree benchmark for the local EcologicalVegetation Class (EVC). A large tree can be either alarge scattered tree or a large tree contained withina patch. To determine the size of a tree, the DBH isconverted to a circumference8 (in centimetres) andthis is used by NVIM and EnSym.Some Mallee EVCs (Coastal Mallee Scrub, LowanSands Mallee, Heathy Mallee, Loamy Sands Malleeand Red Swale Mallee) do not list a large treebenchmark DBH for canopy trees. In these EVCs allMallee eucalypts identified as canopy tree speciesare regarded as large trees and assigned thestandard extent for a large tree9. Any other EVC thatdoes not list a large tree benchmark DBH for canopytrees is assigned a default large tree benchmarkDBH of 40cm (equivalent to a circumference of125.7cm).Condition scoreThe condition score of native vegetation is a sitebased measure that describes how close nativevegetation is to its mature natural state. It shows thecurrent condition of a patch of native vegetationmeasured against its EVC benchmark and indicatesMapped wetlandsA mapped wetland is any wetland in the currentwetlands layer in Biodiversity Interactive Map (BIM)(or its successor). Wetlands can be difficult toidentify and accurately assess as they respond quitequickly to changes in environmental condition,especially rainfall. After a period of no or low rainfallthey can disappear or appear degraded. However,they recover quickly after periods of increasedrainfall.Mapped wetlands are thus treated as a patch ofnative vegetation, and if they will be impacted theymust be included in the mapped extent of nativevegetation to be removed. The modelled conditionscore is used for mapped wetlands. A mappedwetland may be excluded from consideration if it iscovered by a hardened, man-made surface, forexample, a roadway. The mapped extent of awetland may be refined if supported by the outcomeof a hydrological assessment, and approved by theDELWP Secretary.Summary of site-based informationA summary of site-based information and theirapplication is presented in Table 2.6A circle with a 10 metre radius is approximately 0.0314 hectares in size (rounded to 4 decimal places) and a circle with a 15 metre radius isapproximately 0.0707 hectares in size (rounded to 4 decimal places).7Diameter at Breast Height over bark (DBH). Defined as the diameter of the main trunk of a tree measured over bark at 1.3 metres aboveground level.8Circumference of the main trunk of a tree measured over bark at 1.3 metres above ground level. Tree circumference DBH x pi.9For Basic and Intermediate assessment pathway applications processed using NVIM, all canopy tree species in these Mallee EVCs areregarded as large trees and assigned the standard extent for a large tree.10Or its successor. The Condition score is equivalent to the ‘Habitat score’ described in the Vegetation Quality Assessment Manual.Native vegetation clearing - Assessment guidelines9

Department of Environment, Land, Water and PlanningTable 2: Summary of native vegetation categories, extent and condition scoreCategoriesTree classExtentCondition scorePatchLarge tree: large treebenchmark for the localEVCArea of patch in hectaresHabitat hectareassessment or modelledscore*Large scattered tree: large tree benchmarkfor the local EVCA circle with 15m radius0.2 or modelled score*Small scattered tree: large tree benchmarkfor the local EVCA circle with 10m radius0.2 or modelled score*Scattered treeArea of mappedwetlands in hectares* Patches and scattered trees identified without an accredited native vegetation assessor are assigned the modelled condition scoreshown in the native vegetation condition map (refer section 4.2).Landscape scale informationLandscape scale biodiversity values cannot bemeasured at a site but represent the relativeimportance (or biodiversity value) of one locationrelative to all other locations in Victoria. Thislandscape scale biodiversity information includes: strategic biodiversity value score habitat importance score for rare or threatenedspecies.Strategic biodiversity value scoreThe strategic biodiversity value score of nativevegetation at a site is a rank of a location’scomplementary contribution to Victoria’sbiodiversity, relative to other locations across thestate. The score is derived using a spatialprioritisation tool that ranks locations in Victoria fortheir conservation priority on the basis of level ofdepletion of species habitats and vegetation typeand condition.The strategic biodiversity value score of nativevegetation is shown in the strategic biodiversityvalue map.Habitat importance scoreThe habitat importance score is a measure of theimportance of a location in the landscape as habitatfor a particular rare or threatened species in relationto other suitable habitat for that species. Only nativevegetation that is habitat for rare or threatenedspecies has a habitat importance score. If nativevegetation is habitat for multiple rare or threatenedspecies it will have habitat importance scores foreach species.The habitat importance map for a rare or threatenedspecies shows the habitat importance scores acrossits habitat.10Habitats for rare or threatened species are dividedinto two groups depending on their area ofoccupancy – highly localised habitat or dispersedhabitat. The habitat importance score is calculateddifferently for each of these groups.DRAFT3.2.2Native vegetation clearing - Assessment guidelinesHighly localised habitats for rare or threatenedspeciesHighly localised habitats for rare or threatenedspecies are limited in extent (less than 2000hectares) and are typically geographically restricted.All locations within a highly localised habitat for aparticular species are considered equally important.All highly localised habitat has a score of 1, locationsare not ranked.Dispersed habitats for rare or threatenedspeciesDispersed habitats for rare or threatened speciesare less limited in extent (more than 2000 hectares)and usually less geographically restricted thanhighly localised habitats.Dispersed habitats for fauna species have primarilybeen ranked for context and connectivity, i.e. theability for the population to survive, breed and movewithin and beyond a habitat area, with conditionplaying a lesser role. Dispersed habitats for florahave primarily been ranked for condition score, withsize and connectivity playing a lesser role. Theranking or relative importance of a location for aspecies in relation to other locations is representedby the habitat importance score.Some dispersed habitats are considered equallyimportant or ranking within species habitat is notpossible. The habitats for these species have a scoreof 1 across their habitat.For the remaining species with dispersed habitats,locations where vegetation removal could have amore significant impact than other locations have

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planningbeen determined and included in additional maps.These areas have been determined using the habitatimportance scores and data from the VictorianBiodiversity Atlas including roosting sites and largepopulations. These maps will be updated as newinformation becomes available. They are treated in thesame way as highly localised and dispersed speciesmaps.3.2.3Representing biodiversity valueHabitat hectareA ‘habitat hectare’ is a site-based metric thatcombines the extent and condition score of nativevegetation. It is calculated by multiplying the extentof native vegetation by the condition score of thevegetation.Habitat hectares extent x condition scoreBiodiversity scoreThe biodiversity score combines site-based andlandscape scale information to obtain an overallmeasure of the biodiversity value of the nativevegetation. The landscape scores are weighted sothat site-based information has a greater influencewhen calculating the biodiversity score. There aretwo types of biodiversity scores: general biodiversity score – measures the overallbiodiversity value of native vegetation at a site specific biodiversity score – measures thebiodiversity value of native vegetation at a site fora particular species. This score is calculated foreach rare or threatened species for which the siteprovides habitat.The biodiversity score is calculated as follows.General biodiversity score habitat hectares xstrategic biodiversity value score *Specific biodiversity score habitat hectares xhabitat importance score ** The landscape scores (strategic biodiversity value and habitatimportance) are weighted to have half the influence of sitebased informatio

Native vegetation learing ssessment guidelines 3 Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning Content 1. Introduction 4 . 3.2 Measuring the biodiversity value of native vegetation 8 4. Applications 12 . Aboriginal culture includes relationships to native . vegetation and the land. These relationships hold physical, social, spiritual .

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