New Endangered Ecological Community Listing for Victoria

The Department of the Environment and Energy has announced a new addition to the list of threatened ecological communities under section 184 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The community, entitled Assemblages of species associated with open-coast salt-wedge estuaries of western and central Victoria, was listed as Endangered as of 25th October 2018.

The ecological community occurs along the western and central coastlines of Victoria between the border of South Australia and Victoria and South Point of Wilsons Promontory (see distribution map). It is an assemblage of native plants, animals and micro-organisms associated with the dynamic salt-wedge estuary systems that occur within the temperate climate, microtidal regime (< 2m), high wave energy coastline of western and central Victoria.

What Does This Mean For Projects?

Under the EPBC Act, you now need approval from the Australian Government Environment Minister for any proposed action—including projects, developments, activities, or alteration of these things—likely to have a significant impact on the assemblages of species associated with open-coast salt-wedge estuaries of western and central Victoria.

There are significant penalties, including fines and imprisonment, for taking such an action without approval.

As a result of this listing, the Australian Government considers that local councils, industry and landowners must:
  • Avoid activities that could cause significant change to hydrology or water quality e.g. dredging, deposition of soil, aquaculture facilities or major construction projects such as marinas that may have a significant impact to the community.
  • Ensure that surface water and ground water extraction, major riverine regulatory infrastructure (e.g. reservoirs) and other infrastructure (e.g. bridges) do not significantly alter the current hydrology of estuaries that maintain the ecological community.
Our Geelong office is currently working on several proposed tourism projects on the Great Ocean Road between Geelong and Portland. We are providing advice to clients on how to mitigate both direct and indirect impacts to this newly-listed significant ecological community.

Assessing Significant ImpactsEPBC Act Endangered Ecological Community Distribution Map

Significant impacts to this Endangered ecological community will be assessed against the existing Significant Impact Guidelines prepared by the Commonwealth.
An action is likely to have a significant impact on an Endangered ecological community if there is a real chance or possibility that it will:
  • Reduce the extent of an ecological community.
  • Fragment or increase fragmentation of an ecological community, for example by clearing vegetation for roads or transmission lines.
  • Adversely affect habitat critical to the survival of an ecological community.
  • Modify or destroy abiotic (non-living) factors (such as water, nutrients, or soil) necessary for an ecological community’s survival, including reduction of groundwater levels, or substantial alteration of surface water drainage patterns.
  • Cause a substantial change in the species composition of an occurrence of an ecological community, including causing a decline or loss of functionally important species, for example through regular burning or flora or fauna harvesting.
  • Cause a substantial reduction in the quality or integrity of an occurrence of an ecological community.

Further Actions

The listing of the ecological community is not expected to impact the Estuary Entrance Management Support System (EEMSS 2007) currently in place. This EEMSS 2007 is used to advise the Victorian government of all risks to assets and natural resources associated with opening an estuary artificially. It is expected that the new listing will assist with future management planning and implementation.

A Recovery Plan was not recommended, as the Conservation Advice developed by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee outlined priority research, and threat abatement priorities and actions.

Relevant Links

EPBC Act Listing
Distribution Map: The assemblages of species associated with open-coast salt-wedge estuaries of western and central Victoria ecological community

Further Information

We are currently working on a number of projects that are in close proximity to this newly listed significant ecological community.

If you would like more information about the community, or to discuss what you need to be aware of for your project, please contact us on 1300 839 325.


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