Application for a declaration
VCAT has the power to make declarations in specific circumstances, under a number of planning and environment enactments. A declaration can determine the meaning or effect of a legally enforceable provision such as a requirement of a planning scheme. A declaration can also decide the validity of a decision made by the decision-making authority.
Some of the more common statutory provisions enabling an application for declaration to be made are:
- Sections 149A and 149B of the Planning And Environment Act 1987
- Section 305A Water Act 1989
- Section 41A Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988
- Section 185AA Local Government Act 1989
- Section 41 Subdivision Act 1988
- Section 36D Environment Protections Act 1970
In some cases declarations can only be made by a presidential member of VCAT. In other cases declarations can only be made by either a presidential member or another member who is a lawyer.
Extension of time to apply
Under section 126 of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998, VCAT can extend the time to apply. We can extend the time by which you must make an application to VCAT – if it is reasonable to do so and if extending time would not cause any prejudice or detriment to a party or potential party that cannot be remedied by an appropriate order for costs or damages.
Complete and submit the Application for an extension of time form to apply for more time to lodge an application.
Need help with your application?
VCAT cannot give you legal advice. Seek legal help if you are unsure about your legal options. The following services may be able to help you:
Do I need a lawyer or professional representative?
You may have a legal or other professional representation to appear at VCAT (such as a lawyer, town planner, relative, or some other person). In Planning and Environment cases you do not need to have VCAT's permission to be represented.
Find free or low-cost legal services that may be able to assist you.
Access and privacy
VCAT hearings and files are usually public.
VCAT has limited authority to restrict who can access cases and files but, in certain circumstances, you can apply for confidentiality. For more about applying for confidentiality.
When VCAT receives your application we assign a reference number and send you an initiating order. The initiating order sets out the steps in the progress of your case to a final decision. The order gives directions to you and other parties and specifies the date of the final hearing and if necessary the dates of a practice day hearing and/or compulsory conference.
There is usually a practice day hearing in applications for a declaration. At the practice day hearing we may hear the merits and make a decision in respect of less complicated applications. Otherwise, we will give further directions about the conduct of the proceeding.
Read more about what happens when VCAT opens a case.
A compulsory conference is a form of mediation. We use compulsory conferences to allow parties to work together towards a settlement. If you have been told to attend a compulsory conference, you need to prepare an opening statement. Use the opening statement to clearly state your case. It can be a helpful starting point for discussion between the parties. See more about how to resolve a case by agreement.
VCAT members decide cases based on the parties' submissions and the expertise of the members. In many cases submissions are supported by evidence, witness statements and/or an inspection. As soon as you receive the initiating order, start preparing for the hearing. If you are going to call expert evidence, you will have to meet detailed requirements and strict timeframes. Gather together the documents you will bring to the hearing to support your case, for example, six copies of your written submission, photographs, videos, and witness statements. Read more about how to prepare for your final hearing.
Arrive at VCAT with plenty of time so that you are not late for your hearing. Go directly to the hearing room, do not wait for your case to be called. Write your name on the appearance sheet for your case, the appearance sheet is on the hearing room table. The hearing gives all parties a chance to make submissions, to give and hear evidence, ask questions, call witnesses and provide supporting documents. Each party has a brief right of reply at the end of the hearing. Read more about what to expect on final hearing day.
The VCAT member may give their decision at the end of the hearing. If they need more time or a site visit they normally give a decision within six weeks of the last hearing date. The VCAT member may give reasons for the decision verbally or in writing. If you want the reasons in writing, make the request within 14 days of the hearing date. Read more about what to expect after the final hearing.