Victorian environmental assessment
In December 2020, the Minister for Planning determined that the nine floodplain restoration projects need to be assessed under the Environment Effects Act 1978 (EE Act) by either an Environment Effects Statement (EES) or an Environmental Report (ER).
The Minister recommended jointly assessing sites located close together with similar environmental outcomes to help streamline the assessment process. The nine sites have been divided into four assessment zones:
|Project sites||Zone||Environmental assessment process|
|Gunbower and Guttrum–Benwell||East (ER)||Joint ER|
|Vinifera, Nyah and Burra Creek||Central (ER)||Joint ER|
|Hattah North and Belsar–Yungera||Central (EES)||Joint EES|
|Wallpolla and Lindsay Island||West (EES)||Joint EES|
What is an Environment Effects Statement?
The EES describes the potential environmental effects of a proposed project and outlines how the proponent proposes to manage environmental effects.
The EES is an assessment process, not an approval process. The Minister’s assessment is considered by decision-makers to inform decisions required under Victorian law for the project to proceed.
An EES usually contains:
- a description of the proposed development
- a description and assessment of feasible alternatives
- an outline of public and stakeholder consultation undertaken during investigations and the issues raised
- a description of the existing environment that may be affected
- assessment of the potential effects of the project on environmental assets and values
- proposed measures to avoid, minimise or manage adverse environmental effects a proposed program for monitoring and managing environmental effects during project implementation
What is an Environment Report?
An Environment Report 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 Environment Report 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.
Studies of historical heritage values will also be carried out as part of the EES and ER processes, including consideration of mitigation measures to avoid and minimise any potential impacts. Separate to this, Cultural Heritage Management Plans are being prepared for each site.
Learn more about the EES process in Victoria or download a factsheet explaining the different steps in the EES process.
Commonwealth approvals (EPBC)
If a project (or ‘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), a referral is made to the federal Minister for the Environment.
The VMFRP submitted separate referrals for each of the nine project sites. All nine were determined as ‘controlled actions’, based on their potential impact to threatened species and communities such as the Regent Parrot and Murray Cod. Three sites may also potentially impact Ramsar wetlands.
Under a bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and Victoria, the EPBC Impact Assessment can be integrated into the EES and Environment Report process, minimising duplication and saving time and resources.
View the EPBC referrals (Lower Murray Urban and Rural Water Corporation is listed as the project proponent).
Learn more about the assessment and approval process under the EPBC Act.
Victorian planning approval
The nine floodplain restoration projects will trigger several planning approval requirements. Planning scheme amendments will be prepared for the Campaspe, Gannawarra, Swan Hill and Mildura planning schemes.
An amendment generally follows a standard process comprising preparation of the exhibition and review by a panel, and submission to the Minister for Planning for a decision.
The draft planning scheme amendments will be prepared and exhibited concurrently with the EES and ER documentation.
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
Traditional Owners have cultural, spiritual, and economic connections to land, water and resources through their relationship with Country, having managed land and water sustainably over thousands of generations.
All nine sites are located in areas of Aboriginal cultural heritage sensitivity and Cultural Heritage Management Plans are required under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (Vic)
Separate to the EES process, a Cultural Heritage Management Plan is being prepared for each site. These plans assess the potential impact of projects on Aboriginal cultural heritage, and outline measures to be taken before, during and after construction to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage.
Community and stakeholder input is an important part of the EES and ER process.
Consultation plans are currently being developed to outline how the VMFRP plans to inform individuals and groups who could be affected by these restoration projects and give them opportunities for input.
Consultation helps us to identify issues of concern and potential effects, and get feedback from stakeholders on project options or potential mitigation measures.
Members of the public can also participate in the EES process by providing written comments on the draft scoping requirements and the final EES.
We will provide more information on the EES and ER process and opportunities to give feedback soon. To get involved, register your interest by emailing email@example.com