Environmental significance overlays

This advice is intended to assist permit applicants in the planning of any development or vegetation removal on land covered by an Environmental Significance Overlay under the Nillumbik Planning Scheme.

Many residential areas within Nillumbik are covered by a planning control known as an Environmental Significance Overlay (ESO). This overlay is concerned with ensuring that the development of land does not affect identified environmental values and qualities of particular areas within the Shire.

Due to the complexity of these planning controls, it is imperative that you confirm permit requirements with Council’s Planning Unit before commencing any construction works and/or vegetation removal. Please note that substantial penalties apply for any illegal vegetation removal or destruction, or illegal buildings and works.

In making a decision on an application for development in areas covered by the ESO, Council will take into account the impact of any proposed buildings and works (and any associated vegetation loss) on the natural environment, areas identified as of significance for flora and fauna, and the landscape values of the area. The possible impact on vegetation loss, landscape values and wildfire management (requiring the removal of ground fuel vegetation) will be considered. As such, applicants may be required to modify, relocate and/or screen buildings and structures in order to retain, preserve and/or enhance existing vegetation.

Activities that may affect animal movement and survival, and/or the growth and maintenance of plant colonies, are controlled through this overlay. In some areas, vegetation may be a significant part of the environment, both as a habitat or link for native fauna, or because it contributes to soil stability and water quality. A Land Management Plan (refer to planning advice 14 – Preparing a Land Management Plan) may be required for development or land use changes within ESO areas, and should generally accompany such planning applications.

All vegetation removal (either native or exotic) requires a planning permit within areas covered by the ESO, unless identified as a pest plant in the Shire of Nillumbik Environmental Weed List 2004. A copy of this list is available at the Shire offices. A number of other limited permit exemptions apply, however you should confirm these exemptions with Council’s Planning Services before commencing any such vegetation removal.

Please note: the removal of vegetation is often found by Council to generate concern amongst other community members who may not be aware that you have obtained planning permission to remove vegetation. Council therefore strongly recommends that you advise any nearby neighbours of your intention to remove the vegetation and that you have obtained permission to do so before you proceed to remove the vegetation. Failure to do so may result in Council officers being obliged to visit your land, and also potentially delay the vegetation removal process while compliance with permits is checked.

A planning permit may also be required under the ESO for the following

  • Construct or extend a dwelling
  • Construct or extend an outbuilding or shed
  • Construct a fence
  • Excavate land
  • Subdivide land

Due to the complexity of these planning controls, it is imperative that you confirm permit requirements with officers of Council’s Planning Unit.

Schedules to the ESO

The Nillumbik Planning Scheme has four separate schedules to the ESO. A brief outline of each schedule follows

  • ESO1 - Sites of Faunal and Habitat Significance (Located over a large part of the Shire, especially the north-eastern third and around Kinglake): This overlay is designed to protect and enhance significant faunal and habitat sites and to allow fauna to move between different living areas. Much of the Shire is heavily vegetated and is home to a wide variety of native plants and animals. There are specific sites on both public and private land that have been identified as being of particular importance. Identification, protection and enhancement of these environmentally significant sites, and the strengthening of connecting habitat links, will assist in the protection of biodiversity within the Shire and surrounding areas.
  • ESO2 - Yarra River Environs, and ESO3 - Plenty River Environs (Overlays follow the lengths of both these rivers in the Shire, and of varying widths either side): The Yarra River and the Plenty River and their environs are significant components of the character and landscape of the Shire and are of cultural and natural heritage significance. Both areas attract residents and visitors to the Shire, and both are used for a wide range of recreational activities. The surrounding land uses are a mixture of rural and residential uses. Careful planning is necessary so that use and development does not detrimentally impact on the special characteristics of the rivers and their environs. These overlays have been applied in the Nillumbik Planning Scheme to protect the environs of the rivers, the quality and flow of the water, floral and faunal habitats and views and vistas.
  • ESO4 - Waterways (This overlay follows the Arthurs, Watson and Diamond Creeks): Waterways within the Shire are integral to the environmental systems that support biodiversity. They provide relatively undisturbed habitat corridors between larger areas of remnant vegetation and water catchment areas support many of the threatened flora and fauna species in the Shire. These areas are protected from inappropriate development by the application of this overlay.


This advice is to be used as a general guide only. Council has made all reasonable effort to ensure the information is true and accurate. However, it is recommended that readers seek professional advice before acting or making decisions on the basis of this information. For any questions or clarification, please contact Council’s Planning Services on 9433 3343.

Checklist for planning assessment

The following information (as a minimum) must accompany any planning permit application for development, and/or vegetation removal on land within the Environmental Significance Overlay:

  • Appropriate application fee (schedule of fees available on Council’s website or at the Shire offices)
  • Completed application form (available on Council’s website or at the Shire offices)
  • Full copy of property title, searched from Land Victoria within the last 6 months, along with any related plan of subdivision, restrictions, covenants or agreements (available from Land Victoria or at www.land.vic.gov.au); (see planning advice 4: Obtaining a Copy of Title)
  • A detailed description of all components of the proposal (ie. buildings and works, change of land use or activities on your land, vegetation removal, etc)
  • For proposed vegetation removal, this written submission must include
    • the number and size of any trees to be removed and/or pruned
    • the reason for seeking the removal and/or pruning of the vegetation
    • a demonstration of the steps that have been taken to
      • avoid the removal of native vegetation, where possible
      • minimise the removal of native vegetation
      • appropriately offset the loss of native vegetation, if required
  • Three copies of a scaled and fully dimensioned Existing Conditions Plan, showing (as a minimum)
    • the location of all existing buildings, structures, earthworks, dams and vegetation
    • internal building layout for existing buildings and structures
    • the location and layout of driveways and car parking areas
    • contours/site levels
    • the location of the effluent disposal system (for non-sewered properties)
  • Three copies of a scaled and fully dimensioned Site Plan, showing (as a minimum)
    • the location of existing buildings on adjacent properties (including nominated setbacks from the common boundaries to the subject site)
    • the location of existing and proposed buildings
    • any existing or proposed earthworks
    • location of existing individual trees within 10 metres of all proposed buildings, structures and excavations
    • all trees to be removed and those to be retained
    • the setback of the buildings and works from title boundaries
    • details and location of any car parking structures, areas and accessways
    • details for the retention of stormwater on site
    • the proposed location of all reticulated services and method of installation (note if to be excavated, it must be demonstrated that it avoids or minimises vegetation removal)
    • details of any lighting proposed

For applications affected by an ESO and/or Clause 52.17, the following must also be provided:

  • location and details of vegetation type (ground, middle and upper storey vegetation) within 30 metres of the proposed development, which may require modification for fire management purposes
  • Three copies of scaled and fully dimensioned Floor and Elevation Plans, showing (as a minimum)
  • floor plans of the proposed buildings and structures (including nominated setbacks from boundaries and other key site features)
  • natural ground levels and finished floor levels
  • wall heights and overall building heights for each elevation
  • external colours, finishes and materials
  • One set of photo reduced A3 plans of all plans outlined above
  • A written submission detailing how the proposal responds to the provisions of the relevant zone, overlays, particular provisions and State and local planning policies (as appropriate)
  • Where possible, a CD containing a copy of all plans and associated reports in a PDF format

The application types listed below also require the following information:

  • Tree Removal
    • For applications requiring the removal of 0-10 trees, an Arborist Report must be submitted as outlined in the previous dot point.  This report will then be used by Council to ascertain appropriate offset requirements for the native vegetation removal proposed
    • For applications requiring the removal of 10+ trees (and/or the removal of vegetation within significant patches of remnant vegetation – which may include understorey vegetation), a Flora and Fauna and Net Gain Assessment (in accordance with the State Government’s Native Vegetation Management Framework) prepared by a suitably qualified professional will be required to calculate appropriate offset planting requirements
    • Where there are existing trees on the subject site or trees on adjoining properties proximite to the proposed buildings, a report from a qualified arborist (an Arborist Report) must be obtained and submitted. This report should provide the following details
      • the species, height, girth, canopy width and approximate age of the tree/s to be removed
      • a statement regarding the health, structure and vigour of the tree/s
      • comments in relation to the future health of the tree
      • a recommendation based on all of the above
    • Photographs of native vegetation proposed to be removed, destroyed, pruned or lopped
    • Offset (Replacement) Planting Plan for any native vegetation proposed for removal. Refer to the information requirements below to calculate the appropriate offset planting on a plan. Indigenous species of plants should be selected from the Council publication Live Local Plant Local
    • Replacement Planting Plan for any trees being removed (if applicable), including the location of replacement planting and at a tree planting density specified in the particular character precinct under the Neighbourhood Character Policy which applies to the subject site. If no tree planting density is specified or the density is already exceeded, a tree replacement density of 3 trees to every 1 removed must be applied
  • New Dwelling and/or dwelling addition that increases the number of bedrooms
    • Three copies of a Land Management Plan for the future use of the site. Refer to planning advice 14 for guidance and an information checklist for Land Management Plans
    • For residential applications on non-sewered lots, a Land Capability Assessment prepared by an appropriately qualified professional should be provided which demonstrates that the land is capable of treating and retaining all wastewater in accordance with the State Environment Protection Policy (Waters of Victoria) under the Environment Protection Act 1970

The above checklist ensures that all documents are submitted to Council to initiate the assessment of the planning application. Additional information may be required depending on the precise nature of the proposal and any site-specific considerations. If applications are lodged without sufficient information for Council assessment, Council will formally request further information in accordance with the Planning and Environment Act 1987.


Please check other Council planning advice pages (and their attached checklists) for relevance to your proposal. If applicable, the information requirements outlined in that checklist should also be provided when lodging your application. Planning advice pages which may also be relevant in this particular circumstance are planning advice 12 – Native Vegetation Protection and Removal.