BIODIVERSITY ASSESSMENTS OF NATIVE VEGETATION IS ASSESSED UNDER THREE DIFFERENT CATEGORIES:
- LOW RISK
- MEDIUM RISK
- HIGH RISK
LOW RISK ASSESSMENTS – processed by your Local Council:
For a small amount of vegetation being cleared, usually this is assessed under a Low Risk Vegetation assessment – this may be part of a vegetation clearing permit that has been issued by council.
To determine what the offset amount:
- The area is first mapped using a Native Vegetation Information Management System Tool (NVIM) to determine the net loss amount (See web link below). From drawing the area of loss on your map, a NVIM report will be produced – telling the landholder what the Offset requirements are.
- The next step is determine what Offset option you will require. You have two choices: First party Offset (offset an area of native vegetation and permanently protect it on your own property) or purchase the Offset amount (outlined in your NVIM report) from a Broker.
- If you decide to offset the vegetation loss on your property, you will need to use a “First Party Offset Calculator” available on the DELWP website to determine the Offset amount required in hectares.
- The offset size determined by the calculator must be adhered to under a Low Risk Pathway.
- If the offset is located onsite, then the council will request that it is protected by a Section 173 Agreement.
- To determine whether your property is Low, medium or high risk – you will need to check by using the Native Vegetation Information Management System (NVIM) website: https://nvim.delwp.vic.gov.au
- Please note that sometimes a small vegetation loss area may fall into a Medium or High risk category – this may be caused by the presence of a Vulnerable, Rare or Threatened Species (VROT) of plant or animal located near or on the site. If this happens, then a Medium or High Risk assessment is unavoidable.
MEDIUM AND HIGH RISK ASSESSMENTS – processed through Department of Environment, Land and Water (DELWP):
If the overall vegetation loss area on a property falls within the Medium or High Risk classification, then it is recommended that you seek advice from an Environmental Consultant.
- To work out the net loss of a medium or high risk site, the consultant will need to map the area of your vegetation loss site (using a GPS) and conduct a Habitat Hectare Assessment to determine it’s vegetation condition score.
- The consultant will then create a Geographic Information System (GIS) shape file which contains the size of the site and it’s Vegetation condition and submit this to DELWP in melbourne, to determine the Offset amount.
- Again the landholder has two options – Offset an area on their own property or pay a broker to Offset the amount of area lost.
- If the landholder decides to Offset on their own property, then this will require an additional Habitat Hectare Assessment and the Offset will need to be registered through Bush Broker or through Trust for Nature.
Jennifer Johnson is an accredited Habitat Hectare assessor and is capable of providing this service. The DELWP website lists all the current Accredited Habitat Hectare Assessors: http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/343105/VQA-competent-assessors-list_18072016.pdf
PLACING AN OFFSET ON YOUR OWN PROPERTY (First Party Offset)
Before considering putting an offset on your property – first you need to have enough space in which to locate it. Please note that under CFA regulations, an offset should be no closer than 150 metres from a proposed dwelling and any other adjacent dwellings. The reason for this is due to the fact that an Offset contains fuel that can affect a bushfires behaviour. It is generally not a good idea to have an area with a ready source of fuel so close to your home or other nearby dwellings. Your defendable space cannot enter into the area of the offset or vice versa as the Defendable zone is identified for fuel management and an offset’s purpose is to preserve biodiversity.
- Generally we would recommend that landholders only seriously consider placing an offset on properties that are 8 hectares or larger.
So before considering if you need an offset assessment undertaken –
- First measure the distance from the house (and other adjacent houses) to the offset site and make sure it’s at least 150 metres away from any dwelling,
- Second determine how many hectares of native vegetation you have available. The better the quality of the vegetation, the less offset you will generally need.
If there is enough offset available, you will be expected to manage it for the next 10 years and you will need to develop a plan to do so.
TWO TYPES OF OFFSETS:
- Offsets to cater for loss in Low Risk sites – generally don’t need a Habitat Hectare Assessment and are protected under a Section 173 Agreement by council.
- Offsets to cater for loss in Medium or High Risk sites – these type of Offsets will require a Habitat Hectare assessment and will need to be registered on title through Bush Broker or Trust for Nature.
TABLE OF RISK BASED PATHWAYS FOR LOW, MEDIUM & HIGH RISK ASSESSMENTS: