EPA’s role in land use planning

Decisions about the use and development of land can have significant consequences for the environment and human health. As Victoria’s environmental regulator, EPA supports planning and responsible authorities at key points in the planning process. EPA provides advice on high-risk applications, which can help authorities to make informed decisions. The objective of our advice is to reduce and where possible avoid the risks of harm to human health and the environment. Our focus is on preventing harm, rather than managing the impacts after it’s occurred.

Strategic and statutory planning advice

We provide advice on a range of strategic and statutory planning matters including:

  • proposed planning scheme amendments, including rezoning and application of the environment audit overlay
  • whole-of-scheme reviews and policy updates
  • council strategic plans, visionary documents, structure plans, area framework and master plans
  • application and delineation of buffer area overlays
  • infrastructure planning and environmental effects statements
  • precinct structure plans and regional growth plans
  • planning permit applications with risks to the environment, amenity or human health.

Planning permit applications

EPA is a statutory referral authority to certain types of planning permit applications. and provides advice on planning permit applications. These are set out in VPP 66.02 of the Victoria Planning Provisions Use and Development Referrals and include when:

  • a development licence or operating licence is required in under Part 4.4 of the Environment Protection Act 2017 (the Act)
  • a licence amendment is required under Part 4.3 of the Act
  • the threshold distance isn’t met or no threshold distance is specified for land that’s to be used for an industry or warehouse for a purpose listed in the table to Clause 53.10
  • a cattle feedlot is for 5000 or more cattle
  • for extractive industry if the land is intended to be used for landfill at a future date
  • amendments to existing wind farm permits.

Additionally, EPA can be given notice of an application where council considers the views of EPA will benefit their decision-making process. EPA applies their discretion to these matters and will respond when risks are considered significant.

Ministerial Direction 19 (MD19) referrals

This Direction requires planning authorities to seek the views of EPA in the preparation of planning scheme reviews and amendments that could result in significant impacts on the environment, amenity, and human health due to pollution and waste. Referral to EPA under this direction provides an early opportunity to provide our views on a strategic planning proposal, including when we do not consider the proposal adequately responds to risks.

Our aim in providing advice

The aim of our advice is to avoid potential negative impacts on the community and environment in the early planning stages. When giving planning advice we aim to influence better land use planning outcomes by:

  • identifying risks of harm to the environment or human health
  • providing technical advice to support applicants to understand and manage risk
  • referring to relevant EPA guidance (both industry and planning) and other appropriate sources on specific environmental and human health risks related to the proposed land use, locality, and proposed activities to raise the state of knowledge on risks and risk controls before or when a planning permit decision is made
  • providing general guidance regarding general environmental duty (GED) and other statutory obligations under the Act, so that planning applicants may undertake action to minimise risk and steps to satisfy their statutory obligations
  • when required, providing clear, and enforceable planning permit conditions that effectively manage risks of harm.

Read more about land use planning

Reviewed 15 December 2021