Forests, Permits, Inspections, Civil, Evidence, Standing, Property
A large parcel of land on the outskirts of Bendigo was approved for extensive subdivision by the Bendigo Council. VCAT noted that the site was close to schools, parkland, and commercial and other facilities, was able to be serviced with reticulated sewerage and other services and was within Bendigo’s urban growth boundary. However, the site was graded as being of high conservation significance under the Native Vegetation Framework. It was habitat for numerous Large Rustyhood Orchids, a listed vulnerable species. The site was zoned Residential, but was also protected by a Vegetation Protection Overlay. There is significant coverage of Box Ironbark Forest, classed as a depleted Ecological Vegetation Class in the Goldfields Bioregion Bendigo City Council determined to grant a permit to the revised subdivision proposal, subject to a condition deleting ten lots from the subdivision. Nearby residents and the Bendigo and District Environmental Council Inc challenged the grant of the permit in VCAT, while the permit applicant sought review of the condition. VCAT found that although a residential subdivision of some sort may be possible, a different approach needed to be taken in response to the existing native vegetation on the site. The Tribunal stated that the starting point for the subdivision design ought to be recognition of the significant vegetation on the site. The Tribunal also noted that the permit applicant had not adequately attempted to avoid clearance of native vegetation, as required by the Native Vegetation Framework and was concerned about the impacts of the proposal on six large, native trees that fell within the subdivision boundary. The Tribunal concluded that retention of areas of ecological significance provide environmental and economic benefits, and contribute to Bendigo's unique character. As a result, the Tribunal determined that no permit should issue and set aside Council’s decision.