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Joint media release
4 February 2010
In a national first, the Commonwealth and Victorian governments have agreed on a process to cut red tape and streamline environmental assessments in the implementation of the Victorian Government's Delivering Melbourne's newest sustainable communities program.
The program, aimed at accommodating Melbourne's growing population over the next 20 years, has been assessed through a 'strategic assessment' process under the national environment law to enable sustainable, long-term development that safeguards the environment.
Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, said this was the first strategic assessment in Australia to reach the endorsement stage and heralded a new era in Commonwealth-State collaboration on planning and environmental management.
“This is a great step forward for the Australian and Victorian governments to work together with this modern, flexible and sensible approach to planning, which allows national environmental issues to be considered early on in the state planning process and cuts red tape.
“The approved program includes large areas for the establishment of environmental offsets and provides important protections for nationally protected species through the retention and management of secure conservation reserves and other mitigation measures,” Mr Garrett said.
Victorian Environment and Climate Change Minister Gavin Jennings said the program took into account the long-term cumulative impacts of development on environmental values, while supporting sustainable economic development.
“The Brumby Labor Government is taking action through this program to ensure large-scale, long-term environmental protection by looking at an area as a whole before development begins, rather than at individual projects as they arise,” Mr Jennings said.
“The result is a dramatic increase in the protection of key biodiversity sites around Melbourne and represents a significant commitment from Government to the protection of a large number of threatened species, including birds, fish, reptiles and plants.
By establishing new national grasslands reserves, this assessment increases the area of temperate grasslands in permanent protection from 2 per cent to 20 per cent and the area of grassy woodlands is increased from 3 per cent to 5 per cent.
Victoria's Planning Minister Justin Madden said the program would provide certainty to developers, landholders, planners, industry, communities and governments for long-term growth.
“Melbourne's population is set to grow to an expected five million people by 2030. The program identifies areas suitable for future development to accommodate this growth, and those with environmental values that need protection,” Mr Madden said.
“Now that the program is endorsed, I will consider giving approval for the types of activities that will take place under it. Where approved, such activities will need no further federal assessment, provided they are taken in accordance with this program,” Mr Garrett said.
Through the Council of Australian Governments, the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments are also ensuring strong capital city planning systems that make our cities, including Melbourne, sustainable and liveable into the future.