Native vegetation offset program

Overview

If a person is granted a permit to remove native vegetation then an offset will be required.

Permit holders who require native vegetation offsets are able to purchase these offsets through Nillumbik Shire Council’s Over-the-Counter Native Vegetation Offset Program (NVOP).

Nillumbik Shire Council has developed the NVOP in response to the lack of offsetting opportunities being available within the Shire. It is a strategic action in the Nillumbik Biodiversity Strategy 2012. The NVOP provides an alternative for people who are searching for native vegetation offsets, particularly if they cannot achieve these offsets on their own land.

The NVOP has been designed to assist planning permit holders search for and secure native vegetation offsets. This will improve the efficiency of processing planning applications and assist in the timely implementation of Council projects and works requiring the removal of native vegetation.

The NVOP will also enable vegetation offsets to be retained within the municipality and improve the quality and extent of vegetation at strategically located offset sites.

What is a native vegetation offset?

Native vegetation includes trees, shrubs, herbs and grasses indigenous to Victoria. Clause 52.17 of the Victorian Planning Provisions aims to ensure permitted clearing of native vegetation results in no net loss in the contribution made by native vegetation to Victoria’s biodiversity by requiring compensation in the form of an offset.

A native vegetation offset consists of a site that protects existing patches of native vegetation, large old trees and/or involves planting of new native vegetation. For offsets to be formally recognised they must be legally protected with an on-title agreement, have an offset management plan and be registered on the state Native Vegetation Credit Register.

There are two types of offsets that can be provided – a General Offset and a Species Offset. The gains that these offsets deliver are measured in habitat units.

The Native Vegetation Gain Scoring Manual V2 (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning 2017 [DELWP]) sets out the rules regarding site eligibility, offset security and how gain from an offset is calculated. In most cases, an on-site habitat hectare assessment by a qualified ecologist is required to calculate gain or applicants can use the tool available on the DELWP website.

Do I need an offset?

The State Government made changes to the Native Vegetation Clearing Regulations in December 2017 through Amendment VC138. The Permitted clearing of native vegetation – Biodiversity assessment guidelines (DEPI, 2013) has now been replaced by the Guidelines for the removal, destruction or lopping of native vegetation (DELWP 2017). There are transition guidelines outlined in Clause 52.17 to guide applications prepared around this change over time. Generally, if a permit application to remove vegetation has been lodged prior to December 2017, the assessment for offsets will be made under the 2013 Biodiversity Assessment Guidelines, whilst any applications made from 12 December 2017 will be assessed under the new Guidelines.

A summary of changes made to the regulations is available at the Environment, land, water and planning website.

Under the new Guidelines, planning permit applicants seeking to remove native vegetation must source an offset prior to planning approval being given and cannot clear the vegetation until the offset has been secured. This ensures that the offset exists prior to the permit being granted and prevents landholders being left with permits which are unable to be actioned. It also helps inform landholders of future offsetting costs during the planning stage to enable them to change their application if necessary,

Offset requirements are detailed in the Native Vegetation Removal report  generated by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). This can be done using a tool on the DELWP website (NVIM) or a consultant can produce this report, The offset requirement will depend on the nature of the proposed vegetation removal as determined by DELWP mapping. The offset requirement will outline:

  • the type of offset which is required
  • the amount of offset which is required
  • the minimum Strategic Biodiversity Value
  • the location (catchment management area) where the offset must be sourced

These offset requirements will be included in the planning permit issued for each application.

The preferred approach to achieve offsets is to protect vegetation at the site of loss. However, this may not always be possible for some residents due to lack of space or available credits on their property. Offset sites need to be located at least 150m from a dwelling in an area covered by the Bushfire Management Overlay. Where on-site offsets cannot be achieved you can purchase offset credits from various providers. Over-the-counter programs are a quick and easy way for permit holders to purchase an offset. Nillumbik Shire’s NVOP is one example of a third-party offset provider that can be used to source local offsets. The benefit of this is that the transaction is streamlined and quick with a price that is already set and this can be factored into a project in the early stages of planning.

What is a native vegetation credit?

Native vegetation credits are offsets that have been secured on-title and meet the regulatory standards allowing them to be traded and used by permit holders. Credits are allocated when they are recorded on the State Government’s Native Vegetation Credit Register which checks that the proposed offset and management actions are valid.

The amount and type of credits that are available at an offset site is determined by the condition and extent of the vegetation, its significance for listed threatened species, security and management commitments, as well as the modelled strategic importance for habitat at the offset site.

How much do native vegetation credits cost?

Council’s Over-the-Counter Offset Program offers the sale of credits (General and Species Habitat Units) at a fixed price. This price has been developed from a costing model which identifies all the costs associated with the establishment and management of the offset site, any liability or risk and the administration of the program. In addition, it takes into consideration the current market value of native vegetation credits. 

This information is recorded and updated on the State Government’s Native Vegetation Credit Register. The trading of credits by Council is governed by the rules set by this Register.

Native vegetation offsets purchased through the Nillumbik's NVOP represent official vegetation credits that are registered on the State Native Vegetation Credit Register.

Contact the Biodiversity Officer on 9433 3328 or offsets@nillumbik.vic.gov.au for information on the current sale price for these credits.

Process for purchasing offsets

Step 1: If you require an offset and are interested in purchasing this through the Nillumbik Over-the-Counter Offset Program, please contact the Biodiversity Officer at Nillumbik Shire Council on 9433 3328 or offsets@nillumbik.vic.gov.au

Step 2: Complete a Request for Quote Form - 2017(DOCX, 461KB). Information on this form will be used to verify if Council have the correct type and amount of credits you need. The Nillumbik Over-the-Counter Offset Program is NOT responsible for ensuring a Native Vegetation Credit complies with your planning permit and it is the responsibility of the permit applicant/holder to ensure that all the information supplied in the search request form is correct and accurate. If no credits are available it is the responsibility of the permit applicant/holder to source offsets elsewhere prior to any clearing.

If you are applying under the 2013 Biodiversity Assessment Guidelines, use this alternative form, Request for Quote Form - 2013 Guidelines(DOCX, 464KB)

Step 3: If credits are available a ‘quote and purchase of credits’ form with the terms of the Credit Agreement will be issued. If you agree to the quote and wish to proceed, you will need to review, sign and send back the Credit Agreement within 30 days. It remains the responsibility of the permit applicant/holder to confirm with Council planning officers that the offset purchase meets the requirements of their planning permit.

Step 4: The permit applicant/holder will be issued with an invoice for the purchase of the credits as agreed to in the Credit Agreement. The permit applicant/holder will have 30 days to make the payment which can be done at the customer service counter or online via BPay. Once the payment has been received the details of the trade are sent to the Native Vegetation Credit Register. A Credit Extract is issued by the Native Vegetation Credit Register and a copy of the Credit Extract is sent to the applicant as official evidence of the trade. This can then be submitted to the Planning Department to show that the permit condition has been met.