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Stopping illegal vegetation removal

Stopping illegal vegetation removal

Friday 20 September 2019

Bass Coast Shire Council will review the way it deals with the illegal removal or damage of native vegetation from Council managed reserves.

At last Wednesday’s Council Meeting, Council resolved to update the Vegetation Damage in Reserves – Procedure for Action (2008), to strengthen actions to address unauthorised vegetation removal and damage in Council managed bushland and coastal foreshore reserves. Council will also continue to advocate to the State Government for an increase in penalties for illegal removal of vegetation.

Updating the Procedure for Action will ensure it continues to reflect current legislation and address community frustration at perceived inaction by Council. As a result the community can expect to see more signs erected in the foreshore reserves where vegetation has been illegally removed replacing the area that the vegetation was, particularly where this has occurred to enhance a view or access.

Native vegetation is protected under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 through a number of planning scheme controls. A permit is needed in most cases to legally remove, lop or destroy any vegetation on foreshore and bushland reserves, unless there is an exemption in place.

Since the Procedure for Action was initially adopted in 2000, over 150 cases of foreshore and bushland vegetation damage have been investigated by Council. These cases have not resulted in a fine or prosecution in VCAT or in the Magistrates Court, due to the difficulty in obtaining evidence admissible in a court of law.

While instances of significant vegetation damage and removal have decreased in Bass Coast reserves since 2000, the rate of minor vegetation damage has remained relatively constant. Council is currently monitoring 17 incidents of vegetation damage in foreshore reserves, which have occurred since the start of 2018.

Bass Coast Mayor, Cr Brett Tessari, said updating the Procedure for Action and erecting signs will show the community that it does not ignore illegal vegetation removal or damage.

“In fact, Council wants to strengthen actions to prevent it from occurring. Council must protect our bushland and foreshore reserves and will not tolerate this willful and illegal removal,” Cr Tessari said.

“Updating the document will allow Council to take a firmer position against all instances of vegetation damage or removal and implement other actions.

“Council’s ability to increase fines for illegal vegetation damage is limited, as these penalties are set by the State Government, however Council could advocate for a review of these penalties,” Cr Tessari concluded.