All of the administrative systems and bodies of law discussed above are relevant to the protection of natural environments as well as urbanised human environments. The activity complained about might require planning permission, or an environmental impact assessment (EIA) or works approval. All of these legal processes have enforceable opportunities for input by members of the community, as described above. Other laws and systems specifically directed to the protection of nature and natural areas include the EPBC Act, Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (Vic) (“FFG Act”), Wildlife Act 1975 (Vic) and the National Parks Act 1975 (Vic). Note that amendments to the FFG Act passed the Victorian Parliament in August 2019 and are due to come into force on 1 July 2020. For more information about these amendments, contact Environmental Justice Australia.
The need to obtain a planning permit to remove native vegetation (clause 52.17 under all Victorian planning schemes) is an important part of the framework of nature protection laws in Victoria (see www.environment.vic.gov.au/native-vegetation/native-vegetation). Other environmental protection measures contained in overlays (e.g. the vegetation protection and environmental significance overlays) are also important elements in the framework.
Many natural systems and habitats are found in the state’s forests, on public land, but outside national parks or reserves and vulnerable to logging operations. We saw above that actions under the national system of regional forest agreements are exempt from EIA under the EPBC Act, and is an EIA, even if a “significant impact” is ever found, ever more than an investigatory and reporting mechanism completely in the hands of government in any case? Forestry operations are carried out under the Forests Act 1958 (Vic), the Conservation, Forests and Lands Act 1987 (Vic) and the plethora of regulations and management plans made under them.
Specific provision is made for third-party enforcement of planning schemes (see “Enforcement”). However, in most cases, Victorian nature protection laws do not include specific provisions that enable enforcement by individuals or environment organisations. In these cases, challenging a failure to comply with these laws may be possible under common or administrative law – although such legal action is expensive and complicated. For more information about protesters’ rights, see Community activism.