Guidelines for the removal, destruction or lopping of native vegetation were scrutinised in the Inquiry into ecosystem decline in Victoria that was tabled on 2nd December 2021.
in its submission to the Inquiry that native vegetation clearing regulations
were reviewed in 2017 and changes adopted through the review process sought to
increase protection of sensitive native vegetation, enhance the operation of
the guidelines, and increase transparency.
However, despite these changes, DELWP noted that environmental data indicates that native vegetation coverage across Victoria has continued to decline.
inquiry: “Victoria’s ecosystems are currently facing serious decline.
Population growth and spread has put pressure on ecosystems, which has led to
the degradation and loss of many native species and habitats.”)
Buln Buln Rd 30/10/2021
The three-step approach (avoid, minimise, offset) was and still is the key policy in relation to the removal of native vegetation to achieve no net loss to biodiversity as a result of the removal, destruction or lopping of native vegetation.
(From the inquiry: “We found that there is room for improvement in the native vegetation regulatory framework and how offsetting arrangements are provided for under Commonwealth legislation.”)
The Avoid and Minimise approaches were retained by the Inquiry with a caution, but both still have the same proviso that they “Must provide appropriate evidence to show that no options exist to avoid native vegetation removal that will not undermine the objectives of the proposed use or development.”
(From the inquiry: “We find that many of the legislative tools available under
Victorian legislation are under utilised or poorly implemented, and that some legislative provisions are overly complex, overlapping, or outdated.”)
Could it be that one of the main causes of biodiversity loss can be found here, and the reason native vegetation across Victoria has continued to decline is because this attitude and wording might provide a loophole?
What might change if this very negative wording were to be reversed to become “that no options exist to avoid native vegetation removal that will not undermine the objectives of environmental and biodiversity protection and care?”