Planning / Approvals

The VMFRP will get much needed water back onto the Murray River floodplains, preventing further decline of these valuable landscapes. We are proposing to remove existing blockages and build infrastructure like flow regulators, channels and containment banks at nine sites along the Murray in northern Victoria.

The projects sites have already gone through extensive planning but no approval has been granted and construction has not started. We must meet a range of Commonwealth and State statutory approvals before proceeding to construction, including:

In December 2020, the Victorian Minister for Planning confirmed the environmental assessment pathway for the nine sites. This process ensures that projects are subject to a thorough, integrated and transparent assessment of any potential effects on the environment.

The assessment process takes about 18 months and involves scientific reviews and surveys, along with a long period of consultation with Traditional Owners, stakeholders and local communities.

It allows us to be confident about the ecological benefits and set up a monitoring regime to measure and show these benefits over time. The environmental assessment also ensures that we appropriately manage any impacts on the floodplains during construction and operation.

Community consultation and advice is a significant part of this assessment process and will help us to deliver the environmental, cultural and social benefits that are important to us all.

Under a bilateral agreement, the Commonwealth environmental assessments will be completed as part of the Victorian environmental assessment process. The Victorian planning approval and Cultural Heritage Assessment Plans will be completed in tandem.

The Minister’s final assessments of environmental effects will be provided to relevant statutory decision-makers who will then decide whether the proponent can proceed with the project.

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 Lakes North and Belsar–Yungera Central (EES) Joint EES
Lindsay Island and Wallpolla 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.

Cultural heritage

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.

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 (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.

More information

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.

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.

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 info@vmfrp.vic.gov.au