Planning and Environment Division reforms

Posted on 01 Jul 2020

Find an overview of initiatives implemented by VCAT as part of its Planning and Environment Division reforms.

Application forms

A suite of new application forms has been prepared for applications in the Planning and Environment Division (PED), including new forms for Environment and Resources applications. The forms have been designed to be user-friendly both in format and through plain language. The forms will also capture necessary information to ensure efficient processing and case management.  

A separate application form for the Major Cases List is no longer available. Instead the new application forms allow the applicant to elect to enter the application in the Major Cases List. These application forms also allow the applicant to elect to enter the application in the Short Cases List. 

Find these forms under the following case types:

Further, the application forms will be available as smart forms once the PED Digital Project is complete. New forms have been prepared for applications for enforcement orders and costs, which will be available soon.

Initiating orders

A suite of new initiating orders has been prepared. These simplified versions of existing orders are more streamlined and easier to understand. In addition, information that was previously included in the appendices have been removed and will be provided on the website. Initiating orders will include the requirement for providing submissions before the hearing to assist in streamlining hearings.

New initiating orders are available for applications in the Environment and Resources List (see below).

Practice notes

The list of existing PED-specific practice notes will be reduced to six, including a revised PNPE2 and PNPE9. The repeal of practice notes PNPE3, PNPE4, PNPE7, PNPE8 is necessary as information contained in those practice notes will now be provided either on the website, in fact sheets or is no longer needed. 

Fact sheets

A series of fact sheets has been prepared addressing matters including the amendment or cancellation of permits, enforcement orders, and environment and resources cases. Fact sheets addressing applications under various Acts (eg Heritage Act 2017, Gambling Regulation Act 2003 and Subdivision Act 1988) and parties in planning disputes will be available in due course.

Environment and Resources List

There is a new Environment and Resources List. This list is set up to deal with the special nature of applications that can be made under the following legislation:   

  • Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994
  • Climate Change Act 2017
  • Conservation, Forests and Lands Act 1987
  • Environment Protection Act 1970
  • Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988
  • Melbourne Strategic Assessment (Environment Mitigation Levy) Act 2020
  • Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990
  • Petroleum Act 1998
  • Plant Biosecurity Act 2010
  • Water Act 1989.

The Environment and Resources List has been created to respond to the particular needs of applicants, decision-makers and other people involved in applications to VCAT about the environment and natural resources. It provides for a specialist approach to disputes in this area, where different forms, processes and hearing arrangements may be appropriate compared with those used for planning disputes or other disputes at VCAT.

The creation of the Environment and Resources List is also a response to the commencement of the Environment Protection Act 2017, to be implemented in 2021.

Two new applications forms will be available from 1 July 2020 to cover the types of applications that can be made under these acts: 

Such orders include enforcement orders (a form of order directing a person to do something or stop doing something) or a declaration (a form of order sought where there is a dispute about the meaning of a provision of an act, agreement, permit, licence or the like). An application for order cover matters that are not a review of a decision.

Find out more information about the types of applications to be heard and determined under the Environment and Resources List:

Tribunal books

In cases involving multiple parties and expert witnesses, VCAT may direct the preparation of a tribunal book. This is a document prepared by the parties. It contains documents on which the parties intend to rely. If there is no VCAT order requiring a tribunal book to be prepared and filed, parties can prepare a tribunal book at their own initiative.  

One party (usually the applicant) should co-ordinate the preparation of the tribunal book.

VCAT must be provided with an electronic copy and one hard copy in colour.

A tribunal book should:

  • be a text-searchable or unlocked PDF document
  • include documents to be relied upon by all parties in the proceeding including (not limited to):
    • an index of its contents
    • copies of the applications, documents that set out the grounds or issues in dispute between the parties, and any agreed chronology or statement of facts
    • where relevant, the application for the permit or statutory approval that is the subject of the proceeding, the decision under review, and relevant documents provided under practice note PNPE2, such as an officer report or assessment
    • copies of all other relevant documents, being those on which a party will seek to rely in submissions, evidence in chief or which they reasonably expect will be referred to in cross examination (This must include all plans, witness statements and any joint expert reports, exhibits and other documentary evidence. It may also include other background documents that will be referred to or relied on at the hearing.)
    • copies of all statutory provisions, authorities, case law which will be referred to in submissions
    • where possible, copies of submissions, where these are required to be provided prior to the hearing
  • avoid superseded documents and unnecessary duplication of documents
  • have stamped page numbers that correspond with the electronic display showing page numbers
  • have documents grouped where convenient, each grouping clearly divided and all pages indexed and numbered or tabbed sequentially.

Other initiatives

Revamped Short Cases List

The revamped Short Cases List was launched in early May 2020.

Major Cases List

Practice day hearings will not be listed in applications in the Major Cases List unless requested by a party and determined to be necessary by VCAT.

Section 82 applications

Compulsory conferences are now listed in all applications under section 82 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987.