Victorians had the opportunity to comment on the SEPP (Waters) Review discussion paper when it was released for a four-week consultation period in June 2015.
The discussion paper aimed to facilitate discussion and increase understanding of the role of SEPPs in setting a framework for the protection of water environments.
Public submissions have now closed and are available to be viewed online.
Feedback received from this first stage of public consultation will inform the development of a draft SEPP (Waters) Policy and Policy Impact Assessment, which is expected to be released for public comment in 2016.
Incorporating SEPP (Waters of Victoria) and SEPP (Groundwaters of Victoria)
Our coast and bays along with rivers, streams, groundwater and wetlands are some of Victoria's most valuable natural assets. Good quality water, healthy biological communities and adequate flows in the waterways are essential to maintain the many demands that we, as a community, place on our water
Healthy, productive waterways are vital for household supplies, industrial and agricultural uses, aquaculture and recreational fishing, recreation including swimming and canoeing and to support our tourism industry.
SEPP (WoV) and SEPP (GoV) are the key policies, addressing impacts to water quality across Victoria. A review of these policies is needed to ensure Victoria has clear and relevant standards, legal rules and statutory obligations to protect and improve the health of our water environments.
The review process will start in May 2015 and is expected to be completed in late 2016. The revised policies will be streamlined and user-friendly, outcome-focussed and risk-based. The SEPP (Waters) Review is being led by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), in partnership
with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
Legal Basis for State Environment Protection Policies
The Environment Protection Act 1970 enables the declaration of SEPPs. SEPPs ensure Victoria has clear and relevant standards, legal rules and statutory obligations to protect and improve the health of the state's natural environment.
SEPPs establish the uses and environmental values (referred to as beneficial uses) that Victorian communities want to protect, and define the environmental quality objectives needed to achieve them. For more than 35 years, statutory policy of this form has been an essential element of the environment
protection framework in Victoria. The SEPPs express in statutory policy the community's and government's expectations for protecting and improving the environment.
In accordance with Section 19 of the Environment Protection Act 1970, the policies should be reviewed every 10 years. The SEPP (WoV) was last reviewed in 2003 and SEPP (GoV) in 2002. This SEPP Review project implements this decennial review of the policies as required under the Environment Protection Act 1970.
This SEPP review process is to pilot the new model for how Victorian SEPPs are to be designed and reviewed, according to the Statutory Policy Review (SPR) that was completed by the EPA and formerDepartment of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) (now DELWP).
What is SEPP (Waters of Victoria)
The SEPP (WoV) provides a framework to protect all of Victoria's surface water environments and provides for where special environment protection measures are needed for sensitive segments of the environment. These areas are covered by Schedules to SEPP (WoV),which include:
- F3 (1988) – Gippsland Lakes and Catchment.
- F5 (1996) – Waters of the Latrobe and Thomson River Basins and Merriman Creek Catchment.
- F6 (1997) – Waters of Port Phillip Bay.
- F7 (1999) – Waters of the Yarra Catchment.
- F8 (2001) – Waters of Western Port and Catchment.
Please refer to EPA website for copies of the policies.
What is SEPP (Groundwaters of Victoria)
The aim of SEPP (GoV) is to maintain and, where necessary, improve groundwater quality sufficient to protect existing and potential beneficial uses of groundwaters throughout Victoria.
Why review the SEPP
A review of the SEPPs is needed to ensure:
- water quality objectives reflect current science and changes to national guidelines, community aspirations and to respond to key threats on the water environment, particularly in Gippsland Lakes;
- rules for decision-makers and industry obligations are streamlined to reflect current policy and risk-based approaches to regulation, and improve implementation and accountability;
- alignment with, and support for, delivery of current government policy and programs. For example, Murray-Darling Basin Plan, Victorian Waterway Management Strategy, and Gippsland Lakes Environmental Strategy; and
- delivery of a single SEPP that covers all waters of Victoria, including groundwater and surface water.
Who is responsible for the review
As part of the Statutory Policy Review, carried out by the (former DEPI) (now DELWP) and the (EPA) in 2013, it was agreed that (DELWP) has primary responsibility for the development and review of statutory policies, while the EPA provides technical, standard setting and operational input, in line with
the separation of policy and regulatory roles between the two agencies.
As a result, the SEPP (Waters) Review will be led and managed by DELWP as the responsible policy owner, in collaboration from the EPA.
Opportunities to participate
Interested parties will have an range of opportunities to participate in the SEPP (Waters) review. Please keep an eye on this page, which will be regularly updated with information on how the community can participate. Alternatively register your interest in the review via water.SEPPreview@delwp.vic.gov.au.
Contact DELWP SEPP Review Manager on water.SEPPreview@delwp.vic.gov.au
STATUTORY POLICY REVIEW (2013)
In 2013, the then DEPI and EPA released the Statutory Policy Review (SPR) report which contains specific recommendations on how SEPP reviews are to be undertaken and a new model for SEPP content and ongoing oversight. Piloting the implementation of the SPR process is both a driver and requirement of
the SEPP (WoV) and SEPP (GoV) Review.
The SPR noted SEPP (WoV) and SEPP (GoV):
- could more effectively integrate with other statutory policy and tools;
- attainment clauses are unclear or fail to address institutional accountability;
- require streamlining to reduce the regulatory burden on industry; and
- currently act as a 'catch all' rather than focusing on the key issues, and there is not a strong link with decision making on integrated catchment management or urban planning.
Reviewing SEPP (WoV) and SEPP (GoV) will allow issues noted in the SPR to be addressed so as to deliver better environmental and stakeholder outcomes by ensuring the updated policy is simple, relevant and focussed on outcome and risk-based approaches.