|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
Overview of Department
Following significant machinery of government changes after the October 1992 general election, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources was established by Administrative Arrangements Order (No.114) 1992.
All the responsibilities of the previous Department of Conservation and Environment (VA 3004) including: Crown lands (public), National parks, forests, soil conservation, fisheries and wildlife, conservation of flora, coastal management, historic sites on Crown lands, National Estate, commercial fishing licences, fish marketing, environment protection and noxious weeds and vermin destruction in forests became the responsibility of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The water resources management and rural water resources policy responsibilities of the Department of Water Resources II (VA 3132) were also transferred to the Department.
By early 1994 responsibility for state participation in the national Clean Up Australia Day campaign was transferred to Melbourne Parks and Waterways (see VA 1007).
Following significant machinery of government changes after the re-election of the Kennett Government in April 1996 the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources was abolished. All functions were transferred to the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (VA 3972) on 3 April 1996 under Administrative Arrangements Order No.150.
Overview of Functions
Since 1987 primary responsibility for managing unalienated land (Crown land) not actually assigned for specific purposes (eg. roads, railways and schools) has been divided into
Crown lands (government) for land available for sale or use by the government of the day (see VRG 100 Finance)
Crown lands (public) for land (reserved or unreserved) maintained for public use or benefit
The primary functions of this Department comprise or are closely related to Crown Lands (public).
The public land management function includes the administration of leases and licences authorising occupation and use of unreserved public land and monitoring and co-ordinating Committees of Management directly responsible for public reserves; protection of natural heritage and ensuring natural values are protected on all Crown land where productive uses occur; as well as those aspects of cultural heritage protection relating to public land.
The conservation of flora and fauna and their environments (including marine and freshwater environments) along with the management of commercial fisheries (including recreational fisheries and the issuing of fishing licences) are also important functions within this portfolio. Conservation protection of Crown and private land, including reversal of land degradation caused by soil erosion, pest plants and animals, salinity, native tree decline and the protection of Crown land from fire are closely related functions.
An associated function to the public land management function is the responsibility for State forests and nurseries, including administration of licences and royalties for forest products, advice, marketing and sales for forestry industries, and management of state hardwood and softwood timber plantations and the Victorian School of Forestry and Land Management.
Similarly the management of national parks, wilderness parks, and state parks is closely affiliated with the public lands management function.
Environment protection functions encompass policy and planning for environment protection, including co-ordinating the Government's response to the Greenhouse Effect and Greenhouse monitoring, developing statewide land-use controls and regional environment plans, advising government agencies, industry and the community on environmental matters as well as the provision of facilities for marine and environmental research, e.g. the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research and the Marine Science Laboratory. (The Office of the Environment was an Associated Administrative Unit of the Department between January 1991 until October 1992.)
Crown Lands (Government)
This function encompasses the control and management of crown lands assigned for use by government or for sale or development, including :
; ownership of land and buildings used for government purposes.
Division of Responsibility for Public and Government Crown Land
Around 1987 the government commissioned a report into public land management which recommended the management of Crown lands be separated according to a classification which identified Public land as that which needs to be retained permanently for the "public benefit" because of its natural resource, environmental resource or heritage attributes and Government land as property used for the provision of goods and services by public agencies. A Bill of Parliament to authorise the transfer of Government land management, lease and sale functions to the Minister for Property and Services (VRG 69) was prepared but never tabled. In order to effect the intention of the Bill sections of the Land Act 1958 (6284) were subsequently transferred to the Minister for Property and Services via Administrative Arrangements Order (No. 58) 1988. This transfer of functions has been described as "administratively clumsy". Although the power to sell Crown land was transferred to Property and Services (VRG 69), the ability to lease designated government land (usually in the metropolitan area) had to be effected by the Department of Property and Services (VA 430) acting as an agent for the Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands (VA 1034). Similarly the Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands (VA 1034) retained authority for the sale of Crown land (usually in rural areas) acting as a land agent for Property and Services.
The Minister for Property and Services (VRG 69) became responsible for the sale and lease of Crown Land classified as Government land under the Government's assets sales program. Government land incorporated:
declared roadways (used)
railway permanent way and rail reserves
sites of premises and other land use for delivery of goods and services, eg. offices, schools, laboratories, depots etc.
Crown Lands (Public)
This function encompasses the control and management of crown lands generally, including :
unalienated lands not assigned to be used for government purposes
; lands and waters reserved for public use, benefit and/or enjoyment ie. public reserves
; management of all licences and leases of unalienated crown land eg. pastoral leases, 19th century land selection, occupation licences.
The prime activity is the management of all public land including reserved and unreserved lands. The regulation of occupation and use of unreserved public land and the removal of natural materials (eg. gravel, sand and stone) is governed by leases and licences. Such land can be occupied for commercial and agricultural purposes and for recreational purposes, including coast and waterway sites occupied by boating clubs and private moorings. Unreserved lands subject to classification review are managed as public land until their classification into government or public land. Monitoring and co-ordinating the Committees of Management which directly manage land reserved for public purposes. This function does not encompass the management of National Parks post 1956 or State Forests post 1907.
In the 19th century, after the initial seizure of the land from the indigenous population under presumption of the legal doctrine of "terra nullis", land administration focussed on survey and sale (alienation) of land and on the management of unalienated Crown land. In the 20th century the emphasis shifted from land settlement to management and conservation of public land.
Crown land has traditionally consisted of land which has been reserved for particular purposes and unreserved land. Unreserved land includes land occupied under licence (including pastoral leases) and land set aside for roads. Authorised occupations include land held by lease or licence under the following categories: primary production, residential, recreational, public utility, industrial, commercial. These occupations have, since permanent white settlement, been controlled and administered by leases, licences and permits pursuant to a number of Acts, including 19th century "pastoral lease" legislation and "land selection" leases and licences. By the mid 1980's two thirds of Crown land leases and licences related to the occupation of unused roads and water frontages.
In the 19th century crown land administration included regulation of the alienation of crown land by auction and selection; settlement of disputes regarding alienation and occupation; issue of occupation licences and leases and ensuring compliance with the conditions of such licences and leases; issue of Deeds of Grant for alienated land and for reserves granted for public purposes such as schools and churches; issue of licences for pastoral occupation and determination of rents; control and management of public parks, reserves and commons, alpine resorts and; prevention of the unauthorised use or occupation of crown lands.
In the 20th century the focus of this function has been the management of the State's public land through the administration of leases and licences for unreserved land; the support, co-ordination and monitoring of committees of management responsible for over 4000 Crown reserves; and the control of pests and weeds and development of management plans for public land. Closely related functions which have developed alongside the public land function are the management of national parks, State forests and historic sites on Crown lands; soil conservation, protection and management of fisheries and wildlife, conservation of flora, research institutes, coastal management, management of botanic gardens, the National Herbarium, and zoos.
After 1829 as white settlement in New South Wales (and the Port Phillip District) grew the emphasis of land administration shifted from small-scale land grants, encouraging agricultural production, to tickets of occupancy, later to become the pastoral licence and leases of the 1830's and 1840's. In the years from first European settlement in the Port Phillip District in the early 1830s the fertile regions of Victoria had been turned into sheep runs by squatters whose possession of the land rested on simple occupancy. By 1838 practically the whole of the present Western District had been occupied and flocks numbered more than 310,000. By 1840 this number had almost doubled [Australian Encyclopaedia, Grollier, Sydney, n.d, Volume IX, p.118]
After 1838 the occupiers of these pastoral runs in the Port Phillip District had to obtain an annual 10 licence based on stock assessment which was conducted by the Commissioners of Crown Lands. Under the provisions of 1847 Orders in Council all persons in occupation of licensed runs had to lodge applications for leases. By this legislation the pre-emptive rights of the squatters were recognised. In the newly defined Intermediate and Unsettled Districts of New South Wales, which encompassed most of the Port Phillip District except land near the townships of Melbourne and Geelong, pastoral occupants would be granted eight and fourteen year leases respectively, together with the right of prior purchase and compensation for improvements.
The leases were never granted. Instead 1852 Orders in Council continued the system of yearly tenure. The 1862 Land Act allowed a nine year tenure which was to expire in 1870. Under the terms of the 1869 Land Act the annual licences were not assured beyond 1880. The annual licences constituted a chattel interest and were transferable, but after 1873 no new licences were issued - all new runs and old-surrendered runs were held under "grazing licences". Pre-emptive rights to homestead sections were secured to all licensed tenants, but after 1870 no claims were allowed for compensation for improvements made by outgoing licensees. Until 1852 rents were based on the amount of stock actually carried. Later, the basis for assessment was the grazing capacity of the run, this was calculated from estimates sent in by the run holders together with occasional inspection and arbitration.
After the gold boom of the 1850's and the resultant increase in immigration and population the Victorian legislature made provision for the availability small scale land holdings, known colloquially as the "opening up" or the "unlocking" of the land. The intention was to take back the vast tracts of land the pastoralists held under licence and give the greatest possible encouragement to the genuine settler to select a block of land and establish a farm that would support a family. Between 1860 and 1884 over five successive acts enlarged and accelerated the "selection" of land for small scale settlement. Most of the acts made provision for the "selection" of Crown land, meaning a leasehold which would eventually result in outright ownership for the selector, and also included provision for the legal "occupation" of Crown land for short or long terms, usually for specified purposes.
In summary land selection after 1869 consisted of a three-stage process: application for a licence; application for a lease; application for a Crown Grant.
Closer and Soldier Settlement
Part III of the Land Act 1898 introduced a system by which the government was able to repurchase private land for closer settlement. The object of this and subsequent legislation was to transform large estates into closely settled communities engaged in agriculture. The repurchased land was made available as farm allotments, agricultural labourers' allotments and workmen's home allotments to suitable applicants under the terms of conditional purchase leases. Certain residence and improvements conditions applied, initially for the first six years, after which time lessees were at liberty to mortgage, transfer or sub-let with consent and, on payment of the balance of the purchase money, to obtain a Crown Grant. Subsequently lessees were also eligible to apply for advances to assist them to erect dwellings and outbuildings and for other approved purposes.
Land was allocated to applicants under conditional purchase leases which required lessees to fence the land, to destroy vermin and noxious weeds and to make other improvements. The leases were granted subject to residence requirements and lessees of agricultural labourers' allotments and workmen's home allotments were required to erect a dwelling within one year. The government also made financial advances to lessees to assist them to fence their land and to build the required dwellings. In 1917 under the provisions of the Discharged Soldiers' Settlement Act the government undertook the settlement of discharged soldiers on lands set aside exclusively for them as a reward for their war service. Special conditions such as low interest finance and no repayments for the first 3 years on 36 year purchase leases were introduced for the settlement of discharged soldiers. From 1922 assisted British immigrants were settled on the land as part of the Closer Settlement schemes.
Crown lands reserved, temporarily or permanently for various public purposes are known as Crown Reserves. Some are surveyed allotments while others are large tracts of land whose boundaries are loosely defined. A permanent reserve can only be revoked by an Act of Parliament. Examples of types of reserves are: recreation reserves, foreshores, municipal parks and gardens, camp reserves, public halls, timber reserves (early state forests), commons, water reserves, fauna reserves and early national parks. They also cover the identification and proclamation of townships, proclamation of roads and the protection of natural or cultural features on Crown Land. Until 1871 Crown Land was also reserved for "church" purposes and these reserves are shown as such on the plans. However after the 1871 Act for the Abolition of State Aid to Religion [No. 391] this practice ceased and provision was made for church trustees to obtain a freehold title to any land which had previously been promised or reserved.
Public lands reserved for public purposes are in most cases directly controlled by Committees of Management which are appointed by the Minister responsible for public lands. In most cases the local municipal council is appointed, in others, local individuals are elected to the committees. These Committees of Management are supported, co-ordinated and monitored by the Department responsible for public land, from the 1980s through jointly developed management plans. In some matters the Committees are subject to statutory control by the government agencies which deal with fire protection, land conservation, planning etc.
This function encompasses activities centred around:
the management and development of State Forests and State Nurseries including early timber and firewood reserves under the various Land Acts prior to the proclamation of the first Forest Act in 1907
administration of licences and royalties for forest products,
advice, marketing and sales for forestry industries, and
management of state hardwood and softwood timber plantations.
Other areas of responsibility include the School of Forestry, forestry research, fencing, lay-out and improvement of reserves and plantations, the provision of recreational facilities and the purchase and alienation of land for forest purposes.
The forests function is also concerned with the regulation of the timber industry and commercial enterprises involving the utilisation of state forests products such as eucalyptus oil, charcoal, sawn timber, pulpwood and firewood.
The first "active" firewood and timber reserves were set aside in February 1862 in the vicinity of the goldfields. In October 1865 a report was presented to the Government on "The Advisableness of Establishing State Forests". The first legislative base for state forests was proclaimed in 1865 when, under section 41 of the 1865 Land Act reserves could be proclaimed for the "protection and growth of timber" (usually called timber reserves). From 1866 State Forests began to be set aside under section 5 (the normal reserve clause) of the Act, "the distinction made on the grounds that timber reserves could be used by miners and settlers until the supply was exhausted at which time the land was then alienated, while state forests could only be used by approved, licensed timber-millers and fellers". [from R. Wright The Bureaucrats' Domain. Space and the Public Interest in Victoria 1836-84, Oxford University Press, Melbourne 1989, p.155.]
The Land Act 1869 contained a schedule of land reserved for timber production but these gazetted reserves were of a temporary nature and revocable at short notice. Various attempts were made from 1870 onwards to legislate for proper management and conservation of the reserves but the situation deteriorated. The Government engaged two foresters from India, Vincent in 1887 and Ribbentrop in 1869, to investigate the causes of the poor condition to which the forests had been reduced and to recommend measures for improvement. A Royal Commission "to investigate the general question of forestry and forest control and management in Victoria" was constituted in 1897. Its final report, presented in 1901, resulted in the first effective Victorian forests legislation in the form of the Forests Act 1907.
The final report of the Royal Commission describes the pre 1907 forestry situation in Victoria:
"For many years timber in the forests throughout the colony was cut under a system of annual licences, by which millers and other timber-getters, on payment of small fee, were able to cut without restriction as to quantity, kind, or size. The licensee of a sheep or cattle run, the purchaser of any public land, the holder of a carrier's licence or of a miner's right, had for a considerable period the privilege of taking without payment, "for their own use," without restriction, timber of any kind growing on the public domain. The only licence to professed timber-getters was a general one, which cost them 1 10s. a quarter. Subsequently an alteration was made, which continued in force up to the end of 1871, and which enabled persons to cut timber without restriction as to age, size, or quantity, under an annual licence for the sum of 5. This fee, being apparently considered too high, was afterwards reduced to 2. In 1869 a new Land Act was passed by the Legislature, and in the following year regulations were made to meet the requirements of saw millers, which provided for granting them mill sites, exclusive rights over cutting areas, and tramway routes, on condition of payment of royalty on the material cut. In 1871 another general alteration of mill regulations took place, and still further alterations in 1873, but the brief period of control on a royalty basis ended with the restoration of the former vicious system of indiscriminate licensing at fixed rates per quarter. Certain checks on cutting were imposed, especially in the case of the cheaper licences for splitters, &c., but in most cases they could not be enforced either from being impracticable, or owing to the lack of a protective staff....
"For several years previous to 1888 there had been an Inspector of Forests, who was also in charge of the State Nursery at Macedon, but in that year the Government in power decided to appoint an officer to manage the reserves, with the designation of Conservator.....When he assumed control in 1888, one of his first acts was to provide for additional supervision, a number of foresters, some with and some without training, being appointed. He also strove, but without success, to get the Government of the day to pass through Parliament a Bill which had been prepared to secure better control and protection of the reserves. His subsequent efforts in the same direction had the same result.
"With the exception of period of several years, when the Minister of Agriculture (usually in those days Minister of Lands also) had control, and in 1892-3, when the administration was transferred to the Mines Department, the forests of the colony have been administered and controlled by the Lands Department. To this circumstance is unquestionably due a great deal of the failure which has hitherto attended all efforts to secure rational conservancy and protection of the reserves. Had there been a proper forest law in force, this form of control might not have so banefully affected the integrity of the forest domain, but since most of the so-called reservations existed (and still exist), merely at the whim of the Minister of the day, it was obviously unwise to entrust the all-important duty of protection and control to a Department whose primary function is to encourage settlement, which by common acceptation is construed to mean the alienation of all classes of land of the public estate.
"As regards management, from the very commencement there has been no real power attached to the office of conservator, and therefore no real responsibility. He has been the head of the staff of foresters and foremen, and has had control of the nurseries and the distribution of young trees, but from the time of his appointment in 1888, he does not appear to have been permitted to carry out any clear and definite policy in the management and working of the reserves. To create this important appointment with the remuneration of 750 a year, and then under the system of control in force to hamper and restrict the occupant in important points of working, to allow the wretched system of fixed licences to remain in force with no practical limitation on methods of cutting, to employ him, in fact, as a subordinate clerk of the Lands Department useful to give information and advice on forest matters of detail, but to deliberately neglect to utilise any experience or capacity for organisation and management which he may have possessed, seems an almost incredible folly. Yet this is virtually what happened. Apart from any possible errors of judgment in business management, which might have been made by any man under similar conditions, the late Conservator appears to have honestly striven to do his duty to the State, to keep the more valuable reserves from alienation, and to protect and support his assistants in carrying out their often unpleasant duties. The opposition to settlement within the reserves led to friction with both Ministers and officials of the Lands Department, and this divergence of opinion on matters of public policy appears to have resulted in further restriction of his already limited powers."
The principle provisions of the Forests Act 1907 included constitution of a Department of State Forests under a Minister of Forests, appointment of a conservator with necessary staff, confirmation and creation of permanently reserved forests and provision for future dedications, placement of control of timber on unoccupied timbered Crown land in the hands of the Forests Department (VA 534) and authorising collection of royalties on forest produce. From 1907 to 1918 progress was made in permanent forest dedication, strengthening control of timber utilisation, silviculture improvement of forests, extension of softwood planting, and the provision of fire protection safeguards. In 1910 the Victorian School of Forestry was established for the training of professional foresters. In 1918 the Forests Commission (VA 534) was established under the Forests Act 1918. Control of State forests was vested in the Commission and a statutory Forestry Fund was established for the improvement and development of State forests.
Under the Forests Act 1958 (which is still the operating legislation as at 1994) State Forests comprise:
"Reserved forest" which comprises (a) areas dedicated as "permanent forest" which can be excised only by Act of Parliament or for specific public purposes, or by exchange for private or unoccupied Crown land; and (b) areas dedicated as timber reserves which can be alienated only by a resolution of Parliament or by exchange as in (a)
"Protected forest" which comprises unoccupied Crown land proclaimed as such and certain defined unused roads. Such land is liable to be alienated. Reserved water frontages are also protected forest.
Additions to a reserved forest can be made by the Governor in Council by (a) dedication of any area of Crown land on the joint recommendation of the Minister responsible; or by exchange of existing reserved forest for Crown land on the joint recommendation of the Minister responsible; or by exchange of existing reserved forest for private land on the recommendation of the Minister responsible; or purchase or resumption of alienated land.
Until 1983 the Forests Commission (VA 534) was vested with sole control and management of all areas of reserved forest. Protected forests were under dual control, the jurisdiction of the Forests Commission being restricted to control of the forest produce thereon. After 1983 its functions and responsibilities were transferred to the Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands (VA 1034).
Noxious Weeds Destruction in Forests and Vermin Destruction in Forests
With the passing of the Rabbit Suppression Act 1880, the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey, together with municipal councils became responsible for the extermination of rabbits. Subsequently the Commissioner/Minister became responsible for the control and destruction of proclaimed vermin and noxious weeds; the payment of subsidies to municipalities; the conduct of scientific research work to assist the control of vermin and noxious weeds; the Vermin and Noxious Weeds Destruction Board and the Keith Turnbull Research Institute.
This function has encompassed management (either directly or through co-ordination of Committees of Management) of national parks and other public land specified under the legislation and from 1975; management directly of all parks and reserves listed under schedules 2, 3, and 4 of the National Parks Act 1975, including national parks, wilderness parks, and state parks.
Prior to the establishment of the National Parks Authority (VA 549) under the provisions of the National Parks Act 1956 (No.6023) a number of departments and public authorities including the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538), the Forests Commission (VA 534), the Soil Conservation Authority, the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission (VA 723), the MMBW (VA 1007), the State Electricity Commission (VA 1002) and the Public Works Department (VA 669) were responsible for aspects of the management and development of public reserves, tourist facilities and national parks. Individual parks and reserves were often administered by local committees of management appointed under the provisions of the Land Acts or the Forests Acts or in some cases, directly by the Department of Crown Lands and Survey or the Forests Commission.
For some years prior to the passing of the National Parks Act, the Victorian National Parks Association, (a grouping of field naturalists clubs, walking clubs, the National Fitness Council, the Youth Hostels Association and the Caravan Club of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria), the Natural Resources Conservation League of Victoria and a number of other smaller societies had advocated greater co-operation in the management of national parks and recommended the establishment of a single authority. Following their representations, the State Development Committee was requested to investigate the matter and presented its report in November 1951. It was not until 1956 however that legislation was finalised.
The National Parks Authority (VA 549) was established under the provisions of the National Parks Acts 1956. The Act provided for the appointment of an Authority which consisted of the Premier (VRG 50), who was to be the responsible minister, the Director of National Parks, representatives of many of the public authorities with responsibility in the area and representatives of interested organisations.
The objects of the Act were:
to provide for the establishment and control of national parks;
to protect and preserve indigenous plant and animal wildlife and features of special scenic, scientific or historical interest;
to maintain the existing environment of national parks;
to provide for the education and enjoyment of visitors and to encourage and control such visitors.
The National Parks Authority exercised its responsibilities in conjunction with other responsible departments and authorities and local committees of management.
The National Parks (Amendment) Act 1971 transferred the statutory functions of the National Parks Authority to the Minister and the agency became known as the National Parks Service (VA 549).
The National Parks Act 1975 introduced major changes to the administration of this function. The National Parks Service became responsible for parks other than "national parks" where intensive recreational usage occurred and Committees of Management which had managed thirteen of the then twenty-four national parks for many years were disbanded. The Committees of Management were converted into Advisory Committees to the Director and the Service was given full and direct responsibility for managing the parks. The new Act retained the concept of the traditional type of national park but in addition, made provision for the management of other types of parks. This was required because the term "national park" had evolved a specific meaning and not all the parks historically designated "national parks" in Victoria would fit the International or Australian definitions of a national park. In this way management of various types of new parks (known as "other") such as those used primarily for wilderness, environmental education and outdoor recreation were included under the management of the national parks function. Park rangers, previously employed as exempt from the provisions of the Public Service Acts or employed directly by Committees of Management were now to be employed under the Public Service Act.
In 1983 the National Parks Service ceased to exist as a separate agency. Its functions were transferred to the newly formed Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands (VA 1034) of which it became a branch.
Some of the first national parks to be proclaimed were:
Wperfield National Park (first reserved 1909 to preserve native fauna by permanently keeping the area in a primitive state)
Kinglake National Park (first reserved 1928 for scenic features; panoramic views and gullies)
Fern Tree Gully National Park (first reserved 1882 for scenic features)
Wilson's Promontory National Park (first reserved 1898 for preservation of native flora and fauna)
Mt.Buffalo National Park (first reserved 1898 for scenic features)
Sperm Whale Head National Park (first reserved 1927 as a sanctuary for fauna and the preservation of native flora)
Lind Park (first reserved 1926)
Alfred Park (first reserved 1925 as a beauty spot and for the preservation of native vegetation)
Wingan Inlet National Park (first reserved 1909 for historic reasons and for preservation of natural features)
Mallacoota Inlet National Park (first reserved 1909 for the provision of an animal sanctuary)
Tarra Valley National Park (first reserved 1909 for scenic features and preservation of native vegetation)
Bulga National Park (first reserved 1904 for scenic features and preservation of native vegetation)
Tower Hill National Park (first reserved 1866 for the preservation of a national monument, extinct volcano)
Six other important parks not reserved specifically as National Parks:
Buchan Caves National Park (first reserved 1916 for the preservation of caves; administered by the Dept. of Lands and Survey (VA 538). An advisory committee of departmental officers is responsible to the Secretary for Lands for the management of the park. The curator and assistants are full-time officers of the Department.
Werribee Gorge (first reserved 1907 for the preservation of geological, volcanic and glacial features)
This function was exercised under the provisions of the Soil Conservation and Land Utilisation Act 1958 (No.6372) and previous legislation, and encompasses:
mitigation and control of erosion on private and public land, including (from 1950) the power to direct land owners to remedy erosion and to impose conditions on the use of land to prevent erosion
the promotion of soil conservation including educational programmes to increase community awareness of soil erosion. LandCare programmes (first established in 1986 and jointly sponsored by the Government and the Victorian Farmers Federation.)
the provision of assistance to encourage landholders to participate in approved erosion control schemes and to adopt soil conservation management practices; the provision of grants towards the cost of approved works and long-term loans for extensive soil and water conservation programmes. Funds are provided through the LandCare programme via the Land Protection Incentive Scheme after 1986 and through the National Soil Conservation Program.
the determination of land-uses for all lands in proclaimed catchment areas (via the Land Conservation Council from 1971 onwards)
supervisory responsibility over all activities causing disturbance of the soil at altitudes over 1,200 metres including responsibility for supervisory control of earthworks and grazing on land over this altitude.
the provision of advisory and technical services to landholders and other government authorities, directed towards efficient use and development of land and on-farm water resources. In particular, advice on the prevention and control of wind and water erosion and soil salting and provision of a service to farmers on the siting, design and survey of dams and pipeline water supply systems for stock and domestic purposes and outside irrigation areas as well as advice on irrigation developments.
the control and prevention of erosion along the Victorian coastline. Working through Committees of Management the provision of advice and financial assistance for control of erosion on coastal foreshores.
programmes undertaken as part of the "Restoring the Land" component of the State Conservation Strategy first launched in 1987. The Land Protection Council (the Minister's main farmer advisory body) formed as part of this strategy.
Soil erosion was noticed in Victoria as early as the 1850s and sand drift in the Mallee district was mentioned at a Royal Commission in the 1870s. For many years however, little interest was shown in the matter, since damage to lands in the settled districts was not widespread. As settlement developed and the cumulative effects of land exploitation began to be felt, soil erosion in various forms increased rapidly. In 1887, a committee of inquiry was formed to examine problems of river siltation arising from mining operations. This resulted in the formation of a Sludge Abatement Board (VA 1403) in 1905. Severe floods in the 1890s started erosion on the banks of several Victorian rivers. In 1917, the more obvious forms of gully and stream erosion were investigated, and the Minister for Public Works (VRG 28) called for the setting up of an Erosion Enquiry Committee which resulted in the formation of a River Erosion and Flood Protection Branch of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission (VA 723). Subsequently in the 1920s erosion in water catchments and the siltation of reservoirs were of considerable concern. Wind erosion and drifting sand were made more evident by new settlement in the Mallee district and by a succession of dry years, and in 1930 a Sand Drift Central Committee was formed which presented a report on erosion in 1933.
The Victorian Department of Agriculture (VA 618) conducted experiments on the control of wind erosion and sand drift at the Mallee research station at Walpeup and the Public Works Department (VA 669) undertook the control of coastal erosion. In 1937 the Government appointed a committee to inquire into the incidence and gravity of soil erosion in the State; its report was presented in 1938 and drew attention to widespread damage, not only in the hill catchments and in the Mallee, but also in many other farming areas.
In 1940 the Soil Conservation Act was passed and the Soil Conservation Board (later Authority) (VA 1056) was formed; subsequently regional advisory committees were appointed and a number of demonstration and experimental areas were established. The Board's functions were principally research, advice and co-ordination of the activities of government departments insofar as they affected soil conservation.
In 1945, a Bogong High Plains Committee was established and in 1946 a Royal Commission was held into the grazing of forests. This led to the passing of the Soil Conservation and Land Utilisation Act 1947 and the re-naming of the Soil Conservation Board to the Land Conservation Authority, which in turn became the Soil Conservation Authority in 1950 (VA 1056). The major difference between the Authority and the old Board lay in the Authority's power to direct land owners to remedy erosion, to impose conditions on the use of land to prevent erosion and to regulate the use of land in catchments. The Land Utilisation Advisory Council, which was also established in 1950 under this legislation, had responsibility for defining catchment areas and advising the Minister and the Soil Conservation Authority on land use in any catchment area.
From 1984 the policy, planning and operational responsibilities of the Soil Conservation Authority (VA 1056) were carried out by the Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands (VA 1034). In 1987 the Soil Conservation Authority was abolished and responsibility for the statutory provisions of the Soil Conservation and Land Utilisation Act 1958 (No.6372) were transferred to the Secretary of the Department and the Minister.
Conservation of Flora
Over time this function has encompassed the following:
From 1930 - 1988 policing and prosecution of persons removing or damaging proclaimed native plants or flowers from public or private land (where the consent of the owner had not been given) undertaken under the provisions of the Wild Flowers and Native Plants Protection Act 1930 and 1958.
The first legislation to protect native plants and flowers was introduced in 1930 as a result of community (naturalists associations etc.) agitation for a means to stop "tourists" from removing plants and flowers from public and private land which was seen to be resulting in the extinction of indigenous plants.
Under the legislation specific plants proclaimed by the Governor in Council were protected and periods of protection could be specified or left unlimited. Provision was made for licences to pick for scientific purposes to be approved by the Minister on the recommendation of the Forests Commission. Rangers and honorary rangers policed the provisions of Act.
More general management and conservation of native plants was also undertaken by a range of government agencies as part of the exercise of their substantive duties, such as the National Parks Authority/Service (VA 549), the Victorian Forests Commission (VA 534), the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538); and the Land Conservation Council (VA 1410).
From 1988 functions undertaken in conjunction with the administration of the fisheries and wildlifer conservation programmes, under the provisions of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 including:
protection of all native plants, vascular (eg. trees, shrubs, grasses, ferns) and non-vascular (eg. mosses, algae seaweeds, lichens, fungi)
administration of a system of controls, via permits, over the taking, trading, keeping, moving and procession of protected flora/plants
recommendation for listing of "threatened species" (rare, geographically restricted, vulnerable or endangered species) for extra protection or of a potentially threatening process for closer management and/or prevention. Preparation and administration of Action Statements and Management Plans which indicate what action has been taken and what action is intended in relation to each listed species, community, ecosystem or potentially endangering process.
functions undertaken by the Scientific Advisory Committee considering nominations for listing
preparation of Flora and Fauna Guarantee Strategy
administration of Interim Protection Orders, issued by the Minister; allow immediate action to protect habitat and associated flora and fauna in critical areas on Crown or private land (orientation towards habitat protection). It may prohibit or regulate use, management or development of the land concerned and it may set a requirement for appropriate works or activities to be undertaken. Payment of compensation to private landholders is possible. Appeals can be made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VA 2659).
determination of critical habitats by the Director/Secretary of the Department, is a pre-requisite for issue of an Interim Protection Order and carries legal consequences in certain circumstances
administration of Public Authority Management Agreements and consultation with public authorities regarding work plans for activities within critical habitats
Fisheries and Wildlife
This function has encompassed:
management of the fish and wildlife resources of Victoria including the development and management of fisheries and wildlife for commercial and recreational exploitation through the licensing of harvesters and sellers of wildlife (excluding administration of commercial fishing licences), enforcement of regulations concerning methods of capture and limits on numbers sought and research into allowable levels of exploitation
recreational fishing licences
conservation, management and research for the protection of fauna and fish and their habitats
administration of wildlife possession and trade and hunting
From 1862 - 1975 this function was undertaken under the provisions of the various Game Acts and Fisheries Acts and included:
protecting individual specified animals for specified periods and/or locations against wilful destruction. Historically this was oriented towards the protection of game animals, the first Game Act in 1862 was designed to protect those animals introduced by the Acclimatisation Society since 1861, such as the fox, hare, rabbit, squirrel, antelope...By the early twentieth century native game and some native wildlife, such as koalas were also specified.
regulation of hunting and shooting, including issue of licences and permits; staff of inspectors and the services of police and honorary inspectors utilized.
the stoking of streams and lakes with trout and the development of research into freshwater and marine fisheries. By 1913 trout were distributed from hatcheries and in 1933 a trout licence was introduced. The appointment of the first biologist in 1941 resulted in bream fishery research at the Gippsland lakes, leading to the first Victorian fisheries management regulations, the establishment of the Snob's Creek Freshwater Fisheries Research Station and Hatchery in 1946. In 1947 Port Phillip Bay fisheries were studied to encourage the commercial marine fishing industry. Since 1968 fees from commercial fishing have been applied to research, management and development of commercial fisheries.
management of sanctuaries proclaimed under the Land Acts, where all fauna (partly protected non-native and native game) are protected for the whole year.
management of State wildlife reserves, introduced in 1959 to cater primarily for the reservation and the management of wildlife habitat.
research into wildlife conservation, the first wildlife research station "Serendip" at Lara near Geelong in 1959. Subsequently an Environmental Studies Section was set up in 1963; and in 1970 major new research facilities at the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research were established at Heidelberg.
From 1975 to 1988 this function was undertaken under the Wildlife Act 1975 and the Fisheries Act 1975 and included:
regulation of the taking, trading or possessing protected species; issuing of licences to buy, sell, keep and breed wildlife and management of fees collected which were in turn used for the support of wildlife conservation work by the Fisheries and Wildlife Division
issue of hunting licences and permits
classification of wildlife into categories, each with a different degree of protection: Endangered Species; Notable Wildlife; Other Protected Wildlife embraces nearly all species of native vertebrate animals
management of State Wildlife Reserves under the provisions of the Wildlife Act which established three types of reserve:
- State Game Reserves, hunting areas in which hunters could take game during the prescribed open season.
- State Game Refuges, areas in which work was carried out to preserve, restore or create game habitat and provide sanctuary for game during the hunting season. Hunting was prohibited in all of these localities.
- State Faunal reserves, reserved for the preservation and propagation of species of wildlife other than game, where the taking of wildlife was prohibited
- wildlife sanctuaries where hunting or killing of wildlife prohibited, declared by Governor in Council
establishment of "Wildlife Management Co-operatives Areas" on private land or on Crown Land vested in other authorities. For these areas a management plan can be drawn up to encourage the conservation of wildlife which the Fisheries and Wildlife Division then helps put into effect.
research into wildlife conservation; Game Management Stations established as regional research centres where intensive management studies, research and pilot schemes for wildlife management developed and assessed
From 1988 functions undertaken under the Wildlife Act 1975 and the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 including:
protection of all native fauna and fish on Victorian land and waters
recommendation for listing of "threatened species" (rare, geographically restricted, vulnerable or endangered species) for extra protection or of a potentially threatening process for closer management and or prevention. Preparation and administration of Action Statements and Management Plans which indicate what action has been taken and what action is intended in relation to each listed species, community, ecosystem or potentially endangering process.
functions undertaken by the Scientific Advisory Committee considering nominations for listing
preparation of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Strategy in the late 1980s.
administration of Interim Protection Orders, issued by the Minister; allow immediate action to protect habitat and associated flora and fauna in critical areas on Crown or private land (orientation towards habitat protection). It may prohibit or regulate use, management or development of the land concerned and it may set a requirement for appropriate works or activities to be undertaken. Payment of compensation to private landholders is possible. Appeals can be made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
determination of critical habitats by the Director/Secretary of the Department, is a pre-requisite for issue of an Interim Protection Order and carries legal consequences in certain circumstances
administration of Public Authority Management Agreements and consultation with public authority regarding work plans for activities within critical habitats
Commercial Fishing Licences
This function encompasses the administration of commercial fishing licences under the various Fisheries Acts and enforcement of subsidiary regulations. From 1975 this included the Commercial Fisheries Licensing Panel and the Fisheries Management Committee.
This function encompasses marketing of the Victorian fishing industry and Victorian fish products.
Heritage Protection and Preservation of the Built Environment
Privately owned buildings which are of "historic" or "architectural significance" can be protected and assistance given for their upkeep under the Historic Buildings Act, see section protection of historic buildings below.
Government owned buildings of "historic" or "architectural significance" which are still used for government purposes and which are not on a crown land reserve (ie. are situated on government land) can, from 1989, be protected under the same legislation [See section protection of historic buildings below] or can be protected under the Government Buildings Advisory Council Act 1972, see section preservation of government buildings below.
"Historic sites or places" denotes areas (such as goldfields) or historic buildings once privately owned or government owned but no longer used for government purposes, which are on public crown land (usually reserved), see section historic sites on Crown lands.
Privately owned buildings can also be protected through statutory planning controls which designate certain areas as being of urban conservation or historic interest. Advisory services and financial assistance is given to encourage conservation and restoration projects with particular emphasis on the conservation of historic areas, see section heritage protection below.
National Estate funding is used to assist projects under these and many other types of conservation and preservation programmes which seek to protect Australia's cultural and natural heritage, see section National Estate below.
Historic Sites on Crown Lands
This function encompasses the management and/or preservation of places/sites (both aboriginal and post-European sites) on public land including :
identification, research, determination of significance and inventory of historic places on public land. Historic sites or places include areas within national, state and historic parks; goldfields and other historic mining areas, lighthouses and historic buildings on public land eg. Woodlands Homestead, Walhalla Post Office, Andersons Mill, Alpine huts, Kilmore Courthouse.
advice and assistance for the conservation, management and interpretation of historic places on public land within the national parks and public land management functions
preparation and input into plans and guidelines for the conservation, management, development and interpretation of historic sites
maintenance of a resource centre with a database, reports, maps, photographs and slides of historic places on public land
provision of expert advice and supervision of conservation works associated with historic places
support for the Historic Mining Sites Assessment Committee and the Historic Buildings Management Committee (from 1987)
training of field staff to ensure management and interpretation of historic places
contribution to education and tourism facilities and services associated with historic places, including assistance with the preparation of displays and publications.
Funding for projects undertaken as part of this function include funds provided via National Estate grants, financial resources of the Historic Buildings Management Committee and Australian Heritage Commission grants.
This function encompasses the activities of the national estate committee including:
the development, co-ordination and administration of the Commonwealth-funded National Estate Program in Victoria, the aim of which is to preserve the State's heritage
the provision of a Chair and professional and administrative support for the inter-departmental committee which considers applications for grants and monitors projects which have been funded
Examples of projects funded by the National Estate Program include the Maldon Restoration Fund and the Beechworth\Chiltern\Yackandandah Restoration Fund.
This function has generally been administered along with other statutory and strategic planning functions and has encompassed the provision of general heritage advice to local government and other responsible authorities within the statutory planning framework; the provision of advice on heritage matters to the Ministry, particularly with reference to planning schemes which include historic or architecturally important buildings or areas; and the administration of grants schemes for the preservation of heritage precincts. For more information regarding this function see VA 1024 Ministry for Planning and Environment.
Protection of Historic Buildings
This function encompasses the preservation of historic buildings, both privately owned and government owned, other than government buildings still registered on the Government Buildings Register and historic sites on crown land. For more information regarding this function see VA 1405 Historic Buildings Council.
Preservation of Government Buildings
This function encompasses the preservation of designated government-owned buildings used for government purposes (e.g. Government House). For more information about this function see VA 1405 Historic Buildings Council.
This function encompasses
the development of policy regarding the use of public coastal lands including the improvement of community access to the State's coastline, the protection of sensitive environments, the development of recreational facilities, the reduction of the effects of soil erosion, the rehabilitation of degraded or damaged areas by revegetation and the repurchase of significant coastal areas where possible.
the co-ordination of management of public coastal lands including technical support and assistance as well as co-ordination of works undertaken by Committees of Management of public coastal lands
the preparation and/or consideration of management plans and the approval of works and developments on public coastal lands
Background: Reservation of Coastal Public Land
Most coastal land was originally reserved for public use according to a set of orders made in the 1870s and 1880s. Reservation was intended to guarantee public access to water by preventing the sale of any further Crown lands adjoining water bodies.
Coastal margins were originally retained to facilitate water transport and associated land access. In non-port areas they were usually regarded as easements, rights of way or land banks for possible future developments. Crown frontages to Port Phillip Bay were created as early as the late 1830s and from the early 1850s they were identified by surveyors as a matter of course right around the bay. Some of the beaches close to Melbourne were specially reserved as parks, gardens or for recreation in the mid and late 1860s but most were not given firm protection until 1873 when legislative steps were taken to remove a loophole which had allowed coastal land to be converted to freehold under section 42 of the Land Act 1865. In June 1873 all "unappropriated" Crown lands along the shores of Port Phillip Bay were permanently reserved. The remainder of the coastline was reserved over the next decade and on the 23 May 1881 a blanket reservation was made of all unalienated land within 1 and a half chains of the colony's " Rivers, Rivulets, Creeks, Channels, Aqueducts, Lakes, Reservoirs, Swamps, Inlets, Loughs and Straits".
Coastal public land so reserved has traditionally been occupied on an annual permit or licence basis. These occupations generally fall under two categories: those for activities associated with recreational use of the frontage and adjoining waters, such as jetties, boatsheds, bathing boxes, boat and swimming club-houses, refreshment booths etc. Permits are issued by the local controlling body, usually the municipal council; the second form of occupation is for grazing licenses where there is little or no public usage and no local controlling body. These licences are issued by the central government department responsible for the public lands function.
In addition special legislation has on occasions allowed proprietary rights to coastal lands for certain purposes. For instance, in St. Kilda, an Act in 1965 allowed the municipal council to enter into leases for a specified portion of the shore reserve for a maximum term of 50 years for the provision of a marina and restaurant. In 1967 statutory provision was made for leases for a maximum term of 21 years for surf life-saving associations.
Committees of Management
Coastal public lands, in the same way as many other public lands reserved for public purposes, are directly controlled by Committees of Management which are appointed by the Minister responsible for public lands. (See section under Crown Lands (Public) above.) In most cases the local municipal council is appointed, in others, local individuals are elected to the committees. These Committees of Management are supported, co-ordinated and monitored by the Department responsible for public land, from the 1980s through jointly developed management plans. In some matters the Committees are subject to statutory control by the government agencies which deal with fire protection, land conservation, planning etc.
Co-ordination of coastal land management
By the mid 1960s it was realised that popular bayside and coastal beaches required measures for co-ordination of works and developments to ensure correct land use, the prevention of deterioration of the foreshore, the improvement of facilities and the identification and planned preservation of all natural assets. The Port Phillip Authority (VA 1102) was established in 1966 to co-ordinate the development of the Port Phillip area and prevent further deterioration of the foreshore. Works and developments in the coastal zones defined as the Port Phillip Area had to be authorised by the Authority. The Port Phillip Coastal Planning and Management Act 1966 was repealed by the Planning and Environment Act 47/1987. For more information about coastal management (Port Phillip area) see VA 1024 Ministry for Planning and Environment.
In 1978, under the provisions of the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978, (No.9212) the Coastal Management and Co-ordination Committee (CMCC) was established with responsibility for the oversight of management and protection of the coastline of Victoria, except that around Port Phillip Bay.
In 1983 responsibility for both the Port Phillip Authority and the CMCC was transferred to the Minister for Planning and Environment (VRG 65) placing responsibility for planning and co-ordination of management of all coastal lands (except major ports and national parks) within the ambit of one department. Thus all planning, management, works, funding and protection of coastal resources, as well as assistance with the preparation of management plans, in conjunction with other government agencies, committees of management and coastal municipalities, were administered by the newly established Coastal Unit within the Ministry of Planning and Environment (VA 1024). The Minister was responsible for approval of management plans, changes to plans and changes in use and development, and approval of leases, licences and permits.
From 1983 until October 1985 when the responsibility for the CMCC lay with the Minister for Planning and Environment the Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands (VA 1034) continued to undertake some coastal management functions such as central policy and planning co-ordination of Committees of Management as well as technical support to the Department's nine coastal regions and works programming for coastal areas. It also undertook the purchase of freehold land for addition to existing coastal reserves; reviews of existing management systems and charges for private occupation of coastal Crown land; erosion control works funded by Land Protection Service grants; major stabilisation projects in coastal parks and coastal reserves and representation on the Optional Dress Bathing Committee convened by the Local Government Department.
After October 1985 when revised coastal management arrangements were introduced the Ministry for Planning and Environment (VA 1024) became responsible for comprehensive planning and co-ordination in Port Phillip Bay (see Coastal Management (Port Phillip Area) and for strategic coastal planning throughout the State while the Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands (VA 1034) had responsibility for managing the coast outside Port Phillip Bay. After the legislation under which the CMCC exercised its powers was returned to the Minister for Conservation Forests and Lands (VRG 75) in 1985 staff engaged in coastal management were employed in both agencies. The staff which provided the administrative support for the CMCC were based in Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands but the Chair of the CMCC came from within the Ministry of Planning and Environment.
From October 1985 the Ministry of Planning and Environment undertook strategic planning exercises for coastal areas, eg. developing the State Coastal Strategy, the Gippsland Lakes Strategy and the Mordialloc Foreshore Strategy. Through representation on the CMCC and its five Regional Coastal Committees the Ministry for Planning and Environment implemented its strategies into the coastal land management process and co-ordinated its work with that of other agencies with direct responsibility for coastal land management (such as the Department of Conservation Forests and Lands (VA 1034) and the port authorities).
The Coasts, Open Space and Waterways Branch within the Heritage and Environment Division of the Ministry Planning and Environment (VA 1024) undertook coastal management activities such as the development of a State Coastal Strategy to deal with issues such as the protection of resources, water quality, and development potential as well as provide guidelines within which management plans were to be prepared for the nine coastal planning districts and as framework for co-ordinating the activities of the various responsible authorities; the development of Building Height Controls along Port Phillip Bay; the development of several coastal management plans intended to ensure a balance between coastal use and conservation, and that conflict between the various activities within coastal areas was minimised. In this way the coastal management functions carried out by the Ministry for Planning and Environment (VA 1024) and subsequent central planning departments were undertaken within their overall strategic planning responsibilities (see Planning function).
The central departments responsible for public land management have prime responsibility for co-ordinating the management of public coastal zones and the CMCC (which continues to report to the Minister responsible for public land functions) directly controls and co-ordinates all works and developments in these areas through the statutory management plan process described above.
Responsibility for the development of environmental policy appears to have originated in the Conservation portfolio (VRG 55) in 1973 (though it is possible the genesis of the function can be traced to the establishment of the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research which was previously the responsibility of the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) and which was transferred to Planning and Environment (VRG 65) in 1983. In April 1990 responsibility for this function was transferred to the Minister for Conservation and Environment (VRG 94). Over time the function has encompassed:
environmental policy which involves
; developing and implementing strategies for safeguarding the environment including the State Conservation Strategy 1986, which gained statutory force through the Planning and Environment Act 1987; State Greenhouse Strategy
investigating specific environmental issues, Victorian Biodiversity Strategy, Biophysical Data, rural land use and environmental planning, Wetlands program, Native vegetation retention policy, policies and programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, monitoring climate change indicators, Environmental Choice education and labelling program
allocation of funds to groups concerned with environmental issues, community education and participation in environmental issues and programs
monitoring and reporting on the state of the environment; preparation of State of the Environment Reports and the work of the Commissioner for the Environment 1986-?1992
environmental planning which involves
; facilitating environmental project evaluation and advising government agencies and industry on environmental matters.
ensuring environmental input in land use planning, advice on the environmental effects of planning scheme amendments and permits; after 1988, assist in development of State and Regional Sections of planning schemes; advice and assistance in the development of regional strategic schemes.
State Conservation and Local Conservation Strategies; Environmental plans and targets, guidelines for ecologically sustainable development, urban planning and environmental management, preparation of open space plan for Melbourne including land purchases.
Clean Up Australia Day
This function encompasses state participation in national Clean Up Australia Day, including:
Clean Up Australia Day Committee
registration of sites to be cleaned up (metropolitan area only)
organisation of volunteers to clean registered sites
promotion of Clean Up Australia Day.
Clean Up Australia Day is a national event that occurs on the first Sunday of every March. It commenced in 1990 and essentially involves people coming out to designated sites and helping clean up the discarded litter and rubbish. Clean Up sites are predetermined by local Clean Up Australia Day committees.
At the state level administrative support is currently provided from within Melbourne Parks and Waterways (see VA 1007). Prior to 1994 administrative support had been provided by the Promotions Officer within the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Water Resource Management and Rural Water Resources Policy
Further research is required to document and describe these functions.