Planning for Timber Plantations
Note Number: AG1340
Published: February 2008
This Agnote provides an overview of the approvals and notifications required for plantation establishment in Victoria.
Does plantation development require a permit?
Plantation development generally shouldn't require a permit in the Farming or Rural Activity Zones which cover most rural areas. However, there are circumstances where a permit will be required. Broad requirements are summarised below but it is always advisable to check with your Local Government Area's Planning Department (LGAs include Shires, Greater Cities etc) as to the requirements for your particular proposal.
In order to avoid a permit requirement in the Farming or Rural Activity Zones, the proposed plantation must not be within 100m of:
- any dwelling in separate ownership
- any land zoned for residential, business or industrial use
- any site with a permit in force, which permits a dwelling to be constructed.
The plantation also must not be within 20m of a powerline (whether on private or public land), except with the consent of the relevant electricity supply or distribution authority.
It's generally better to leave these areas without commercial trees than to seek a planning permit to plant them.
Where activities other than farming are to be encouraged or accommodated, some rural land is zoned Rural Living Zone, Rural Conservation Zone or Green Wedge Zone (around Melbourne). These three Zones automatically require a permit for plantations and most other forms of agriculture.
Even within the Farming and Rural Activity Zones some planning schemes specify that a permit is required if the proposed plantation is over 40 ha in size.
Areas of any zone may also be affected by planning scheme overlays. Overlays are applied to areas which differ in some important aspect from 'run of the mill' farming country and generally require additional care. For instance, steep areas may well have an Erosion Management Overlay whilst areas where there is a lot of native vegetation are likely to have a Wildfire Management Overlay.
Other common overlays are Environmental Significance and Significant Landscape. These four overlays all require a permit to carry out "works" (which includes roading and deep ripping) and thus will generally trigger a permit requirement for plantation development. However, the LGA should only consider the 'works' in the context of the overlay and not (unless the underlying zone requires it) consider matters regarding the 'use' (such as chemical use and harvesting).
Is there remnant native vegetation on the proposed plantation site?
A planning permit will generally be needed if plantation development requires the removal, destruction or lopping of remnant native vegetation.
If native vegetation is present on the proposed plantation site, it is best to leave it intact and establish the plantation around it. However, if it is deemed necessary to remove any of the native vegetation for plantation establishment or associated infrastructure development, such as roading, a permit will generally be required. Don't forget that native grasslands count as native vegetation.
There are a range of circumstances which provide exemptions for landowners from requiring a planning permit in these circumstances. For example you aren't required to obtain a planning permit to remove native vegetation for plantation establishment, if the native vegetation consists of seedlings or regrowth less than 10 years old on land which has previously been cleared.
Such exemptions should be discussed with your LGA who, in conjunction with the Department of Sustainability and Environment, will decide whether a planning permit is required for the removal of native vegetation in your particular situation.
How are planning permit applications evaluated?
In deciding whether to approve a planning permit application for plantation development, and what conditions may be appropriate, LGAs will consider:
- Decision guidelines of the planning scheme which will vary depending on the site’s zoning, any overlays and if vegetation is being removed.
- The need to encourage plantation establishment and timber production in areas where it is of significance to national, state and regional economies, and in areas affected by salinity and other forms of land degradation.
- The role of plantations in protecting water quality, conserving flora and fauna, preventing land degradation including soil erosion, salinisation and water logging, and preventing adverse effects of groundwater recharge.
- The preservation of and impact on the natural environment, cultural heritage and visual amenity. • Whether it is appropriate to require environmental protection standards that are greater than those in the Code.
- The comments of any referral authorities.
- Any objections lodged during notification of the permit application.
What about Aboriginal Cultural Heritage?
Under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 all Aboriginal heritage in Victoria is protected and thus anyone disturbing land needs to inform themselves of any possible issues and proceed accordingly.
Some appropriate actions would be contacting Aboriginal Affairs Victoria on 9208 3275 for known heritage on the proposed plantation land or looking at the sensitivity maps on the AAV website www1.dvc.vic.gov.au/aav/heritage/maps . These maps show listed sensitive areas, including known heritage places. LGAs should have more detailed mapping of known heritage sites and areas within their municipalities.
It’s possible that the developer of a large plantation will need to have a Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) prepared and approved for the site.
A cultural heritage management plan is required for an activity if:
- the activity is in an area of cultural heritage sensitivity; and
- the activity is a high impact activity.
The main area of cultural heritage sensitivity likely to be encountered by a potential plantation is a waterway and any land within 200 meters of it (see the Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2007 for a full list of sensitive areas). In the same context a high impact activity is deep ripping to 60 cm or more over a large area. Neither mounding nor ploughing for plantation establishment constitute high impact activities (see s.52 of the Regulations for more information).
Thus a proposed plantation will need a Cultural Heritage Management Plan if:
- the area is over 40 hectares
- a Planning Permit is required
- part or all of the area is within a listed sensitive area (such as within 200m of a named waterway, prior waterway, lake, swamp etc.)
- ripping to 60cm or deeper is intended and has never been done before.
The Act and Regulations outline the process for conducting a CHMP. Where it’s required, a CHMP must be completed and approved before a planning permit can be issued.
What notification is required if a planning permit is not required?
Where a plantation is established for the first time and a planning permit is not required, a Plantation Development Notice (PDN) must be lodged with the LGA not less than 28 days prior to commencement of site preparation. There should be no charge for submitting a PDN.
The information required in a PDN is specified in the Code of Practice for Timber Production (2007).
It must include the following:
- landowners name and address
- total area (ha) to be planted
- species to be planted
- year of planting, and
- a map of the plantation, showing
- the location of the plantation
- any access roads or tracks
- powerlines and
- any retained native vegetation within the plantation boundaries.
A standard form for Plantation Development Notices can be obtained from the DSE/DPI customer service centre on 136 186 or email@example.com.
When contemplating plantation establishment it is recommended that you consult your LGA as to whether a planning permit is required. If a planning permit is not required a PDN must be lodged prior to commencement of site preparation. You should also inform yourself of any Aboriginal cultural heritage issues and assess the possible need for a CHMP.
If plantation establishment will require the removal, destruction or lopping of remnant native vegetation, a planning permit will generally be required from the relevant LGA.
Where the granting of permission to establish a plantation may not be straight forward (for instance if it is a large or unusual plantation, or in an area where it might be contentious), it is a good idea to contact an independent planning consultant in the early stages. This can often save a considerable amount of time and sometimes the significant expense of unnecessary reports.
Independent planners can be contacted through Planning Institute Australia (Victoria Division) at www.planning.org.au/vic.
Organizations and Contacts
- Local Government Planning Officers
- Private forestry staff in local DPI offices (call DSE/DPI Customer Call Centre on 136 186)
- Department of Sustainability and Environment (call DSE/DPI Customer Call Centre on 136 186)
- Private Forestry Development Committees (for contact details call DSE/DPI Customer Call Centre on 136 186)
- Aboriginal Affairs Victoria on 1800 762 003 or the Aboriginal Heritage Register on 9208 3275
- Victoria Planning Provisions
- Municipal Planning Schemes
- Code of Practice for Timber Production, 2007.
- Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 & Regulations 2007
WebPages of Interest
This Agnote was originally researched and written by Diana Lloyd, Mt Gambier, for the Private Forestry Council Victoria in 2004.