This policy sets out requirements for schools and the Victorian School Building (VSBA) to preserve or replace vegetation affected by capital building projects.
- Schools or the VSBA must plant at least two trees of a comparable species for every one removed as part of capital building projects. Schools are responsible for this on school-led projects, while the VSBA will meet this requirement for projects they lead.
- Schools and the VSBA must ensure capital building projects comply with tree removal legal requirements.
- School-led capital projects are exempt from local planning scheme requirements under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 However, it is best practice to follow the intent of local planning schemes in accordance with the School-Funded Capital Projects Policy.
- Schools and the VSBA must ensure revegetation complies with Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority Guidelines on Bushfire Preparedness and the Department’s Shelter-in-Place Buildings Policy (which includes additional considerations for schools with bushfire/grassfire identified as a risk in their Emergency Management Plans)
- This policy falls within the 'Plan' stage of the School Asset Lifecycle.
The Victorian School Building Authority promotes safe, manageable and sustainable outdoor environments — including preserving and replacing vegetation.
In order to offset any loss of biodiversity from removing native vegetation during capital works, schools or the VSBA must plant a minimum of two comparable trees for each tree removed as part of capital projects. For example, removed native trees must be replaced with native trees. Schools are responsible for this on school-led projects, while the VSBA will meet this requirement for projects they lead.
The VSBA encourages principals to include final planting schedules and site plans in their capital project plan.
Schools and the VSBA must ensure school-led capital building projects comply with vegetation removal legislation and regulations. Principals may engage an arborist who can prepare a vegetation removal and retention report to help with this.
If a project will remove a significant amount of vegetation, the arborist can conduct a survey that specifies the species on the site.
The vegetation removal and retention report should advise on the legal and departmental requirements specified below.
- If a project impacts on a matter of national environmental significance under the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999 (Cth), an environmental assessment and approval must be obtained from the Federal Minister for the Environment. You can find further information on the Federal Department of Environment and Energy
- Where protected flora under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 is present on the project site, this flora can only be removed with a permit. You can find a list of protected flora and procedures for obtaining a permit on the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning .
- If the project site contains the habitat of endangered, notable or protected wildlife under the Wildlife Act 1975 this habitat cannot be disturbed under the Wildlife Regulations 2013 .
- If the project site contains trees on the Victorian Heritage under the Heritage Act 2017 (Vic), these trees can only be removed with a permit. You can find procedures for obtaining a permit on the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning .
- If the project site is in an area of Aboriginal cultural heritage , the school may require a cultural heritage management plan under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 . For more information, refer to Cultural Heritage Management .
- If the project site contains noxious weeds or pest animals under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 , the school must arrange to eradicate these species to the fullest extent possible.
Certain plant species must not be used on school sites. These are listed in section 5.1.1 of the Building Quality Standards and include plants that are harmful to humans, and trees with troublesome root systems.
Natural shade may be provided around high-use areas by retaining all suitable trees. See section 5.1.4 of the Building Quality Standards .
Capital building projects at schools are exempt from local planning scheme requirements under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 . However, it is best practice for project plans to follow the intent of local planning schemes in accordance with the School Funded Capital Projects Policy.
School infrastructure requirements take precedence over local planning scheme requirements. For example, schools can consider removing significant trees that damage their infrastructure or risk personal injury.
Schools, or the VSBA, are encouraged to consider the following planning scheme aspects when making vegetation removal and regeneration decisions on their capital building projects:
- Environmental and landscape values — Planning should protect, restore and enhance sites and features of nature conservation, biodiversity, geological or landscape value. This includes specific trees on the National Trust of Australia’s Register of Significant .
- Biodiversity — Planning should support the health and biodiversity of ecological systems.
- Native vegetation — Planning should avoid removing native vegetation where possible, and offset biodiversity loss of any necessary removal.
- Heritage — Planning should conserve, enhance, and not adversely affect heritage places of natural or cultural significance.
- Environmental risks — Planning should minimise environmental degradation and hazards.
Local laws may require schools or the VSBA to obtain a permit to remove significant trees. Schools and the VSBA are not always exempt from these laws, as they do not fall under local planning schemes. Schools should check with their local government authority before removing significant trees, even significant trees identified as a problem.
To fully consider environmental aspects of planning schemes, schools and the VSBA may:
- analyse vegetation retention opportunities and constraints for their development
- consult the local council on applying planning schemes and local laws to the capital works site (while such school works are exempt from planning schemes, schools and the VSBA should follow their intent where practical)
- consult the school community, local environmental and community groups and neighbours
The VSBA recommends the consultation is proportional to how much vegetation the planned project will disturb. Schools may contact their regional office for advice on how to consult with their communities.
All schools must implement a schedule (as part of their online Emergency Management Plan) for monitoring and removing materials that may easily ignite, in accordance with the Guidelines on Bushfire Preparedness. This includes branches overhanging buildings, debris and rubbish around and under buildings (including gutters), and dry grass and vegetation. Schools and the VSBA must ensure revegetation does not impede this schedule.
Schools with bushfire/grassfire identified as a risk in their Emergency Management Plans must also endeavour to complete the vegetation maintenance activities listed under ‘Maintenance around the SIP and school buildings’ section of the Shelter-in-Place Policy.
- Further guidance can be found in the department’s Landscaping for bushfire prone areas guide and the Country Fire Authority’s Landscaping for bushfire .
- More information about Emergency Management Planning, including the Emergency Management Plan online tool, can be found in the Emergency and Critical Incident Management Planning Policy.
- Emergency and Critical Incident Management Planning
- School-Funded Capital Projects
- Shelter-in-Place Buildings
For questions about the Safe Trees program
Victorian School Building Authority
For general questions about this policy
Victorian School Building Authority
1800 896 950
Reviewed 22 February 2023