Melbourne Urban Development - Policy Statement for Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) referrals
Purpose of this policy
This policy statement describes the approach of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (the department) in administering the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) for certain projects that are outside of Melbourne's Growth Areas and for which the framework described in the Melbourne Strategic Assessment can be applied.
The policy describes criteria to determine whether a proposed action may be considered under the strategic assessment framework. Eligible projects may use this framework for offset into the Western Grasslands Reserves where impacts cannot be avoided or otherwise mitigated.
This approach is expected to simplify the assessment of eligible projects and deliver administrative efficiency for developers and regulators.
The EPBC Act is the Australian Government's central environmental legislation and provides a legal framework to protect listed flora, fauna, ecological communities and heritage places — defined in the EPBC Act as matters of national environmental significance. More information about the EPBC Act is available on the About the EPBC Act webpage.
The Victorian Government's program for Melbourne's Growth Areas has been assessed under the EPBC Act and is described in the report Delivering Melbourne's Newest Sustainable Communities: Program Report (Victorian Government, December 2009). The program was endorsed under the EPBC Act on 2 February 2010. This means that developments in the new Growth Areas can be considered for approval provided they are undertaken in accordance with the report's commitments and undertakings for protection of matters of national environmental significance. Further information on the program and strategic assessment is on the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment website.
Prescriptions have been approved under the EPBC Act to describe specific requirements to avoid, mitigate and offset impacts on ecological communities and species listed under the EPBC Act for projects covered by the endorsed program. The prescriptions describe the method for calculating offsets for permissible clearing. Offsets under the program are being used to establish the 15,000 hectare Western Grassland Reserve (WGR) located west of Melbourne near Werribee and Little River. A map showing the location of the reserve is on the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment website.
Projects undertaken outside the Growth Areas described in the program report require approval under the EPBC Act if they are likely to have significant impacts on matters of national environmental significance. The department's significant impact guidelines should be used to determine if a project is likely to have significant impacts.
Projects within Melbourne's Growth Areas, and that have been approved as part of the Melbourne Strategic Assessment, do not require separate referral or consideration under the EPBC Act. Projects not captured by the strategic assessment must continue to be individually referred under the EPBC Act if they are likely to have a significant impact on any matter of national environmental significance. For guidance on whether an action is likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance refer to the significant impact guidelines and other relevant EPBC Act information and policy statements such as for the Golden Sun Moth and threatened ecological communities of the Victorian Volcanic Plains.
This policy statement applies to urban development's not captured under the Melbourne Strategic Assessment, but for which the department believes that the offset approach under the program (into the WGR) may be appropriate and is likely to provide acceptable outcomes for relevant matters of national environmental significance. The categories of projects eligible for this approach are described below and summarised at Figure 1.
Projects on the Victorian Volcanic Plains Bioregion and that are within the North Western Metropolitan area including the Local Government Areas of Wyndham, Melton, Hume, Whittlesea, Brimbank, Darebin and Moreland. Developments within adjacent Local Government Areas (Moorabool, Greater Geelong and Golden Plains) may be considered if the specific project meets the other criteria in this policy.
Type of projects
Actions considered under this policy include urban, commercial and light industrial developments and infrastructure directly servicing such development (roads, pipelines and other utilities). Generally, developments will be smaller scale (less than 50ha in land rea) and involve less than 1000 dwellings.
Excluded are major new freeways, transport, electricity or sewerage infrastructure not directly related to servicing eligible developments. Also excluded are extraction industries and heavy industry (including power stations), and actions on Commonwealth land.
This policy does not apply to projects which have an existing EPBC Act approval in place; that is, it does not apply retrospectively.
Matters of national environmental significance
Projects that are likely to have a significant impact on listed Natural Temperate Grasslands of the Victorian Volcanic Plain (NTGVVP) or Golden Sun Moth (GSM) are addressed by this policy.
The extent of project impacts must be within the following limits:
- No more than 10 hectares of listed NTGVVP; and/or
- No more than 10 hectares of GSM habitat.
Projects with significant impacts on additional matters of national environmental significance, but that otherwise meet the criteria described above, will still be considered under this policy approach for offset of clearing of NTGVVP and GSM habitat. This policy does not apply to impacts on other matters of national environment significance which will continue to be considered on an individual project basis, and consistent with the department's draft EPBC Act offsets policy.
How the policy works
Projects that meet the above criteria will still need to be individually referred under the EPBC Act. However, the department may consider, in forming assessment and approval recommendations, approaches consistent with the following prescriptions under the program:
- Final Prescription for Natural Temperate Grassland of the Victorian Volcanic Plain
- Final Prescription for Golden Sun Moth
Offset requirements for projects with significant impacts on NTGVVP or GSM can be calculated in accordance with these prescriptions and the associated processes determined by the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment.
Further information that may be useful can be found at the following links:
An online tool is available to help you identify what matters of national environmental significance occur in a given area.
Figure 1: Eligible projects under this policy
If you have any questions about whether referral is required, or if this policy applies to a particular proposal, please contact the department's Community Information Unit (CIU) on 1800 803 772. The CIU will direct you to the right contact in the department.