Native Vegetation Planning and Protection

Native pant and shrub

1. Do I need a permit?

Vegetation is protected under a number of different controls and overlays under the Surf Coast Planning Scheme.  Under the Scheme, a planning permit is required for:

  • removal of any native vegetation from a property greater than 4000m2
  • removal of any vegetation within an Environmental Significance Overlay
  • removal of any vegetation specified in a schedule under a Significant Landscape Overlay or a Vegetation Protection Overlay
  • removal of any vegetation within a Salinity Management Overlay
  • removal of some trees specified in a schedule under the Heritage Overlay.

* Please note that multiple controls may apply to your property and in most cases there are exemptions that may apply. 

Before removing or trimming vegetation, you should:

2. What is Native Vegetation

Native vegetation encompasses plants that are indigenous to Victoria, including trees, shrubs, herbs and grasses. Native vegetation provides habitat for plants and animals and delivers a range of ecosystem services that make land more productive and contribute to human well-being.

In Victoria, native vegetation removal (including lopping, trimming or pruning vegetation) is regulated through federal, State and local planning policy.  A permit under Clause 52.17 of the local planning scheme is usually required to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation from a property greater than 4000m2. 

A permit application to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation must also consider the State’s native vegetation removal regulations – Guidelines for the removal, destruction or lopping of native vegetation (the Guidelines) – which is implemented through the Surf Coast Shire Planning Scheme.  Specific application requirements must be provided with your planning permit application if you are proposing to remove native vegetation under the Guidelines.

In some cases, consideration of the matters of National Environmental Significance listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 may also be required as part of the planning process.  If you are planning a project, development, or changing the way that you use your land, you might also need to consider the impacts on the environment at a national level.  The Australian Government has developed an information toolkit to help you work out whether your project will need approval under Australia’s national environmental law.

3. Bushfire Protection Exemptions

The Surf Coast Shire is among the highest fire risk areas in Victoria and the world.  There are a number of planning provisions that may apply, which allow you to protect your property and assets from bushfires.  These include approved measures when planning to build a new home and allowances for existing homes.

For new homes:

  • The removal, destruction or lopping of native vegetation to construct a dwelling and create its defendable space is exempt from requiring a planning permit under the Surf Coast Shire Planning Scheme if it is:
  • Within a Bushfire Management Overlay;
  • Zoned General Residential Zone, Residential Growth Zone, Neighbourhood Residential Zone, Urban Growth Zone, Low Density Residential Zone, Township Zone, Rural Living Zone, Farming Zone or Rural Activity Zone:  
  • Does not exceed the specific defendable space distance determined for the bushfire attack level, or is undertaken by a condition in a planning permit for a dwelling or extension to the dwelling.               
  • Please note that the exemption applies only after the permit is issued. Regard must be had to any Overlay that affects the land, and the impact that removing vegetation may have.

For existing homes:

  • If you are within an area covered by a Bushfire Management Overlay, you are entitled to remove any vegetation (including trees) within 10 metres of a house AND any vegetation except trees within 50 metres of a house for bushfire protection.
  • If you are within a Bushfire Prone Area, you are entitled to remove any vegetation (including trees) within 10 metres of a house AND any vegetation except trees within 30 metres of a house for bushfire protection.

There is also an exemption for vegetation removal along a fenceline to allow for the operation and maintenance of existing fences as well as the construction of new boundary fences between properties in different ownership.   It should be noted that clearing along both sides of the fence when combined must not exceed 4 metres in width and you MUST ensure that you have the consent on your neighbour if any clearing is proposed on adjoining land.  This includes contacting Council if the land is a Council managed roadside or reserve, or other relevant land manager e.g. Parks Victoria, Regional Roads Victoria, GORCAPA, Barwon Water.

Please contact Council to discuss your situation if you are unsure

4. Offsets and Covenants

Native vegetation on your property can be managed and protected as an offset site which can generate native vegetation credits.  Offset site owners can sell native vegetation credits to compensate for the vegetation being removed (typically for land development or construction through a planning permit).  There are costs and eligibility requirements associated with establishing an offset site and landowners must commit to protecting and enhancing existing native vegetation with an on-title agreements and management commitments.  Further information is available from the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Change website

Trust for Nature is a non-profit organisation that works to permanently protect remnant vegetation. Working with the landowner, conservation covenants are placed on bushland and grassland areas to permanently protect sites from clearing and other damaging activities.  Interested landowners with bushland blocks should contact Trust For Nature for further information

5. Vegetation and issues with your neighbor

Leaves, branches, roots, trees, suckers and creepers can contribute to issues between neighbours. These issues and disputes are covered by ‘common law’ and Council cannot help to resolve these issues unless the vegetation is coming from Council land. Luckily, the Dispute Resolution Centre of Victoria has detailed information and advice on working through these issues with your neighbour. You can also contact the Dispute Resolution Centre if need assistance with mediation on a tricky vegetation issue.