Protecting critically endangered grasslands

Overview

Objective

To determine whether the management of native vegetation clearing is protecting state and nationally significant native vegetation in the extended urban growth boundary areas.

Issues

Victoria is the most cleared Australian state. Around 46 per cent of original native vegetation coverage has been retained on public land, while on private land 21 per cent remains. 

The Victorian Government’s native vegetation management programs aim to conserve plant species indigenous to Victoria—including trees, shrubs, herbs and grasses, which provide various ecological services including stable animal habitats, preventing land degradation and maintaining the land’s productive capacity.

The removal of native vegetation in Victoria is regulated through the Victorian planning provisions of the Planning and Environment Act 1987. This framework is referred to as the native vegetation regulations and was reformed in December 2017.

The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) is the Australian Government’s key piece of environmental legislation. The EPBC Act focuses Australian Government interests on the protection of matters of national environmental significance, with the states and territories having responsibility for matters of state and local significance under a range of legislation.

In 2009, the relevant Victorian and Commonwealth ministers committed to undertake the Melbourne Strategic Assessment (MSA) to streamline environmental approvals–under both State and Commonwealth legislation–and offset native vegetation loss within Melbourne’s urban growth boundary.

The Delivering Melbourne’s Newest Sustainable Communities Program (the Program) committed the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) to implementing several conservation commitments to offset the destruction of native vegetation. The two primary commitments are to improve the composition, structure and function of the Natural Temperate Grassland and the Grassy Eucalpyt Woodlands of the Victorian Volcanic Plain, as these are listed as critically endangered under the EPBC Act. This is to be achieved through a range of outputs, particularly the establishment and management of a 15 000 hectare Western grassland reserve–and a smaller 1 200 hectare grassy Eucalypt Woodland Reserve by 2020.

This audit will examine DELWP’s implementation of the Program, to meet these two key State conservation commitments to the Commonwealth under the MSA.

Proposed agencies

DELWP, Parks Victoria

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