Trees & Vegetation

Native seedlings

Landscaping with native plants 

Native vegetation removal

Timber harvesting on private land 

Landscaping with native plants

Colac Otway Shire is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful areas in Australia. It comprises of a wide variety of vegetation communities ranging from coastal scrub to rainforest and areas of native grasslands.

It is important that with our expanding growth we retain the natural values and landscape character of each area. This means it is critical that Council, private developers and individual landowners all carefully consider species selection.

Council encourages indigenous species to be planted throughout the shire – just be sure you select the appropriate plant for the site. By selecting local species you will assist the environment by:

  • creating habitats for local birds, animals and insects
  • retaining the integrity of local plant species
  • maintaining a natural balance in ecosystems and reducing pest plant and animal densities.

Indigenous species are also adapted to local soils and climate conditions, which means they require less maintenance, including fertilising and watering. They will grow at a much quicker rate than species that are not from the area.

Landscaping your coastal garden for bushfire is a booklet which provides advice on species selection and plant arrangement to provide for lower fuel loads and reduced fire risks. This booklet has been a multi agency collaboration.

Colac Otway Shire Council has produced species lists for all major townships in the shire. As lists for areas outside these townships do not currently exist, we encourage you to either pick the closest town or call Council’s Environment Department for advice on 03 5232 9400.


Native vegetation removal

Do not remove any native vegetation without first speaking to the Environment and Planning departments at Colac Otway Shire Council on 03 5232 9400. Native vegetation is protected in Victoria under Commonwealth, State and local legislation and includes grasses, herbs, shrubs and trees.

A majority of the vegetation in the shire is protected under the planning scheme, which means it is likely you will be required to apply for a planning permit if you intend to remove vegetation.

The removal of native vegetation has caused many land degradation issues such as erosion, salinity, landslips, poor water quality, and habitat loss.

Permit to remove native vegetation

Applications for permits to remove native vegetation need to be completed on the application for a planning permit form(PDF, 2MB) and submitted to Council's Planning Department. Planning permit forms can also be obtained from Council offices.

All applications should be accompanied with supporting information to allow the Responsible Authority and any referral authority to adequately assess the application. Information must include:

  • total area of the property (ha)
  • total area of native vegetation on the property (ha)  
  • area of native vegetation proposed for removal (ha)
  • total number of trees proposed for removal
  • ecological vegetation classes (if known)
  • why you can't avoid clearing the native vegetation (for example, no clear areas for constructing a proposed dwelling)
  • if some native vegetation loss is avoidable, describe what you have done to minimise clearing
  • how you will offset any clearing that is proposed (offsets can include protection and improved management of vegetation, such as fencing, weed control and/or re-vegetation activities).

Please note that if you propose to clear larger areas of vegetation, you will be required to supply further information.

Once an application has been submitted to Council's Planning Department, an assessment of the vegetation is undertaken. The assessment usually involves a site visit to allow the officers to collect further information on the proposal and in most cases to discuss the proposal with the applicant. The decision to grant a permit is based on the planning scheme guidelines and any recommendations made by the responsible referral authorities, such as the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. Other considerations include the extent and quality of the vegetation type, whether vegetation can be protected, planted or allowed to regenerate, and whether the vegetation can be retained through the use of alternative options.

All native vegetation removal that is located within a Vegetation Protection Overlay under the planning scheme must be referred to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) for comment. If your property is in this overlay and you propose to clear a significant amount of vegetation, it is advised that you speak to a DELWP representative for advice and guidance prior to lodging a planning permit. If the area in question is in an Erosion Management Overlay, no vegetation removal or earthworks can take place without a permit. Land within these zones needs to be carefully managed to reduce the risk of a landslip event occurring.

If you see anyone undertaking vegetation removal that could be a breach of the planning scheme please contact the Planning or Environment department immediately on 03 5232 9400. The Victorian State Government has a policy for vegetation protection on private land called the Native Vegetation Framework. For more information on this document contact the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning on 136 186.


Timber harvesting on private land

Local government is the responsible authority for managing timber harvesting on private land. Council is required to ensure that all operations, including plantation harvesting, comply with the Code of Practice for Timber Production. This document helps to ensure the protection of water quality and yield, flora and fauna conservation and the preservation of landscape values and slope stability. Management procedures for site rehabilitation and regeneration are also included. A copy of the state government Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014 is available here.