Planning / Approvals

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.

In December 2020, the Minister for Planning determined that the floodplain restoration work proposed at Lindsay and Wallpolla Islands and at Hattah Lakes North and Belsar-Yungera would each be assessed under a joint environment effects statement (EES).

The remaining five sites are being assessed under two environment reports (ER); one for the work proposed at Nyah and Vinifera Forests and Burra Creek and one for Guttrum and Benwell State Forests and the Gunbower National Park.

What is an EES/ER?

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.

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.

The scoping requirements also address impacts related to Commonwealth approvals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) due to the potential for impacts on matters of national environmental significance.

Download the scoping requirements:

The EES scoping requirements went through a public exhibition on the Engage Victoria website earlier this year.

The scoping requirements for ERs are not released for public comment.

More information

Read the VMFRP environment assessment referrals and reasons for the chosen assessment pathways.

Learn more about the EES process in Victoria or download a fact sheet explaining the different steps in the EES process.

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.

More information

View the EPBC referrals on the DAWE website (Lower Murray Water is listed as the project proponent).

Learn more about the assessment and approval process under the EPBC Act.

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.

We are working with Traditional Owners to prepare Cultural Heritage Management Plans for 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.

EES/ER timeline

  • 2020

    Environment assessment referrals

    VMFRP refers projects to the Victorian Government under the EE Act

  • Dec 2020

    Minister decides assessment pathway

  • Apr 2021

    Public exhibition of draft scoping requirements (EES only)

  • Jul 2021

    Final scoping requirements released

  • Mid to end 2021

    Prepare EES & ER

  • Early to mid-2022

    Public exhibition of EES & ER

  • Early to mid-2022

    Independent inquiry considers EES submissions

  • Mid-2022

    Minister for Planning’s assessment

  • Mid to late 2022

    Final decision

    Planning and environmental decision-makers consider the Minister for Planning’s assessment to inform final decision