We’ve been working on the planning for these floodplain restoration projects for several years. The last stage in the assessment process before we start building is to satisfy the Australian and Victorian governments that we will meet our ecological, social and cultural goals, and minimise any environmental impacts during construction and beyond.
We are currently working through the following assessment processes:
Community consultation and advice is a significant part of this assessment process and we invite you to get involved. We want to know how communities use these spaces and if we have missed any potential impacts.
The EES process is Victoria’s most rigorous, transparent and comprehensive process for assessing the potential environmental impacts of large-scale projects, and how those effects will be managed during construction and operation.
An environment report (ER) is a targeted assessment that can be used if an EES is not deemed necessary and where the elements that require further assessment are well defined. The need and scope for the ER is set out in the conditions of the Minister’s decision of a referral. This process allows for specific investigations and/or consultations be carried out but is not as complex as an EES.
The EES process is most commonly used for big infrastructure and transport projects like the North East Link and the West Gate Tunnel project. These projects offer many societal benefits but can have big environmental impacts which need to be thoroughly assessed before going ahead.
While our floodplain restoration work will have some short-term environmental impacts, it is expected to substantially improve the health of our floodplain ecosystems, protecting these valuable landscapes for generations to come. This work will also benefit river communities who can continue to enjoy their local spaces.
What is being investigated?
Sixteen specialist investigations are now under way to assess potential impacts to areas such as biodiversity and habitats, water quality, cultural heritage, social, economic and amenity impacts, and waterway use and infrastructure. Watch our Field in Focus series to learn more about these studies.
The matters to be investigated and documented in an EES or ER are set out in the scoping requirements developed by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and released in July 2021.
If a project (known as a ‘proposed action’) is likely to have a significant impact on one or more matters of national environmental significance (MNES) identified in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), a referral is made to the federal Minister for the Environment.
The VMFRP submitted separate referrals for each of the nine project sites. The Minister decided that each proposed action is likely to have a significant impact on MNES, such as potential impacts to threatened species such as the regent parrot and Murray cod. The proposed action therefore needs approval under the EPBC Act and is known under the Act as a ‘controlled action’.
Under a bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and Victoria, the EES process is accredited to assess impacts on MNES, minimising duplication and saving time and resources.
Each municipality in Victoria is covered by a planning scheme that regulates the use, development and protection of the land. A planning scheme can only be changed by a formal amendment process. This usually consists of public exhibition of the draft amendment, followed by a panel review and submission to the Minister for Planning for a decision.
The works planned under VMFRP trigger several planning approval requirements. Draft planning scheme amendments are currently being prepared for the Campaspe, Gannawarra, Swan Hill and Mildura planning schemes. They will be exhibited concurrently with the EES and ER documentation later in 2022, giving the community an opportunity to have their say.
Draft planning scheme amendments are one part of a package of approvals needed before VMFRP construction can begin.
For more information on the planning process in Victoria, visit the DELWP website.
Projects also need several secondary consents/approvals including approval from Parks Victoria / Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change under section 27 of the National Parks Act 1975 for the project to undertake works in parks.
Cultural Heritage Management Plans
We are working with Traditional Owners to prepare Cultural Heritage Management Plansfor each site. These plans assess the potential impact of projects on Aboriginal cultural heritage and outline ways to protect cultural heritage before, during and after construction.
These plans are required under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (Vic.) because these floodplains are areas of Aboriginal cultural heritage sensitivity.
Traditional Owners have cultural, spiritual, and economic connections to land, water and resources through their relationship with Country. Traditional Owners have managed land and water sustainably over thousands of generations.
The Victorian Murray Floodplain Restoration Project (VMFRP) acknowledges and respects Traditional Owners, Aboriginal communities and organisations. We recognise the diversity of their cultures and the deep connections they have with Victoria’s lands and waters.
We value partnerships with them for the health of people and country.
VMFRP management and staff pay their respects to Elders past and present, and recognise the primacy of Traditional Owners’ obligations, rights and responsibilities to use and care for their traditional lands and waters.