Introduction to the Office of the Conservation Regulator

The Office of the Conservation Regulator (OCR) was established by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) early in 2019 following an Independent Review of Timber Harvesting Regulation in Victoria’s public native forests (The Review).

The Review and DELWP’s Response to the Review were published on 15 March 2019.  These documents can be accessed on the Forests and Reserves website.

Our mission is to be an effective, trusted, best practice regulator

The OCR oversees regulatory functions in conservation and environment in the state of Victoria through:

  • educating the community about the laws governing conservation and environment protection in Victoria
  • providing guidance and support to encourage compliance
  • monitoring compliance with regulatory requirements and taking enforcement action against non-compliance.

The Chief Conservation Regulator

The Chief Conservation Regulator leads the OCR and is accountable for decision-making supporting the delivery of the DELWP’s key regulatory outcomes of:

  • Protected natural and heritage values
  • Equitable and safe access to public land and use of natural resources

Scope of OCR Responsibilities

In the first phase of OCR establishment the Chief Conservation Regulator will be accountable for timber harvesting, biodiversity, fire prevention and land-use regulation.

The Chief Conservation Regulator will also lead the OCR in its role to support the whole of DELWP in the continuous improvement of its regulatory performance. Working with other areas of the Department, the OCR will champion consistent application of the DELWP Regulatory Framework and assist in developing systems and capabilities that will underpin its function as an effective and transparent regulator.

Governance

The Conservation Regulator’s Independent Regulation Advisory Panel (IRAP) provides the Chief Conservation Regulator with independent expert advice on best practice approaches to regulating. The Panel Members include Jane Brockington and Adam Beaumont.

IRAP advises on the Conservation Regulator’s settings for regulatory policy and governance, as well as operational oversight. The Chief Conservation Regulator also refers matters to IRAP for their expert opinion.

DELWP Regulatory Framework

DELWP has a wide range of regulatory responsibilities and is committed to discharging these responsibilities to a high standard.  Our goal is to maximise compliance with the law, reduce harm and provide benefits to the environment and our community.

Regulatory structure

The DELWP Regulatory Framework describes the way we approach our regulatory responsibilities and sets out the DELWP's regulatory mission:

"To be an effective, trusted, best practice regulator".

The Framework also sets out the key principles for delivery of the OCR regulatory functions:

  • Outcome-focused
  • Risk-based
  • Intelligence-led and evidence based
  • Proportionate and graduated
  • Collaborative
  • Transparent
  • Safe.

Reg Framework wheel

Click here to access:

Regulatory Framework (PDF, 4.3 MB)

Regulatory Framework -  Accessible  (DOCX, 43.2 KB)

Compliance and Enforcement Policy

The OCR Compliance and Enforcement Policy is a key document supporting the implementation of the DELWP Regulatory Framework.

It describes how we will apply the law and exercise judgement and discretion in our compliance and enforcement activities; in particular how we:

  • encourage voluntary compliance with the law
  • use a range of compliance and enforcement tools we have at our disposal
  • consider the extent of culpability and harm in our enforcement approach.

At OCR, we work with co-regulators, regulated entities and the community to improve compliance with the laws we have powers to administer.  Our compliance strategy is based on these key approaches:

  • preventive work, such as raising awareness of the regulatory requirements and how to comply with them
  • monitoring and assessing compliance with regulatory requirements
  • taking action against non-compliance
  • responding to harmful events as they arise.

Our responses to non-compliance are considered and graduated depending on the circumstances.

Click here to access:

Compliance and Enforcement Policy (PDF, 6.4 MB)

Compliance and Enforcement Policy - Accessible (DOCX, 43.5 KB)

2020-21 Regulatory Priorites

The Conservation Regulator is committed to regulating in a way that is risk-based and intelligence led and continues to engage with the community to improve compliance with the law.

We face unique challenges in 2020-21 as our wildlife and communities recover from the devastation caused by the 2019-20 bushfires and the use of public land changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health measures.

The Conservation Regulator’s key regulatory risk areas identified for 2020-21 are:

  • Illegal campfires
  • Illegal take of firewood
  • Illegal vehicle use on public land
  • Regulating native timber harvesting; and
  • Regulating the use, keeping, trade, treatment and control of wildlife (new for 2020-21)

The Conservation Regulator is committed to working collaboratively and transparently with the community, co-regulators and stakeholders to improve conservation regulation in Victoria.

We will use a range of tools to inform, educate, inspect, patrol and enforce regulatory protections to promote compliance over this financial year. We will measure our efforts and seek to learn from our approaches over time.

Click here to access:

Regulatory Priorities 2020-21

Regulatory Priorities 2020-21 (Accessible version)

Statements of Regulatory Intent

Statements of Regulatory Intent provide a detailed explanation of how the OCR will use its powers to prevent and respond to breaches of the law in specific topic areas.

Statements of Regulatory Intent are being developed for our key areas of regulatory responsibility. They describe what we regulate in each area, what you can expect from us as a regulator and how we go about ensuring compliance with law - including the enforcement powers and tools that we may use under the current law.

Regulating Timber Harvesting in State Forest Under the Allocation Order

This Statement outlines the role of the OCR in regulating timber harvesting in State Forests under the Allocation Order and describes what the community and industry can expect from us as a regulator. Specifically, it describes how the OCR intends to use the regulatory tools that are available to it under the law.

A draft Statement was published on 22 March 2019 with feedback invited through an online EngageVic survey as well as through direct submissions to EngageVic and the OCR.  Sixty-two individuals responded to the survey and six submissions have been received from organisations and individuals. The survey was open for community and stakeholder input for eight weeks.

Click here to access:

Statement of Regulatory Intent for Regulating Timber Harvesting in State Forest under the Allocation Order (pdf)

Statement of Regulatory Intent for Regulating Timber Harvesting in State Forest under the Allocation Order (Accessible docx)

Engagement Report (pdf)

Engagement Report (Accessible docx)

Future Statements of Regulatory Intent

The OCR will be developing and publishing further statements of regulatory intent for future key regulatory responsibilities, including for:

  • Biodiversity – wildlife
  • Prevention of human-caused bushfires resulting from illegal and inappropriate use of fire
  • Preventing illegal recreational use of public land.

Draft Statements of Regulatory Intent for these topics will be released for public comment in the coming months.

Engagement Strategy

The OCR is committed to increase transparency about how we regulate and improve our relationships and engagement with stakeholders, the community and those we regulate.

The strategy  supports our commitment to the DELWP Community Charter. It outlines, why we engage, who we engage with and how we engage.

The OCR Engagement Strategy commits to OCR engaging to support identifying priorities, designing our regulatory interventions and supporting all stakeholders to comply with the law.  We will do this through planned consultations, workshops and events, but also through our everyday interactions when we go about our work.

Click here to access:

OCR Engagement Strategy (PDF, 1.8 MB)

OCR Engagement Strategy - Accessible (DOCX, 52.9 KB)

Stakeholder Reference Group

The Conservation Regulator’s Stakeholder Reference Group provides advice and support the Chief Conservation Regulator in being an effective, trusted, best practice regulator for the Victorian community and environment.

The Stakeholder Reference Group includes members who represent a range of perspectives:

Australian Trail Horse Riders Association

Australian Veterinary Association

Environmental Justice Australia

Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporation

Great Forest National Park

Jacobs

Local Government representative

Victorian Association of Forest Industries Inc

Victorian Farmers Federation

Victorian National Parks Association

Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH)

Wildlife Victoria

The Stakeholder Reference Group provides advice to the Chief Conservation Regulator on:

  • supporting a robust understanding of the drivers (reasons) that lead to breaches of regulations and how the regulator can address them
  • supporting the design and delivery of an effective mix of regulatory activities in accordance with current legislation
  • providing feedback on our communication and engagement approach
  • prioritising effort across a diverse range of regulatory obligations
  • providing feedback on the effectiveness of the regulatory and opportunities for improvement.

Procedure for Identifying Old Growth Forest in Victoria

Overview

On 7 November 2019, the Victorian Government announced Victoria’s Forestry Plan, which includes a commitment to immediately end harvesting of old growth forest. The Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, asked the Conservation Regulator to independently monitor and publicly report on implementation of the policy.

To achieve this, the Conservation Regulator developed a draft procedure for the field identification of old growth forest. Public feedback on the draft was sought and gathered through an online Engage Victoria survey and submissions received directly. In conjunction, technical advice was received from contractors (working with the Forest Protection Survey Program) and a Scientific Advisory Panel to provide an independent review, with further in-field testing undertaken.

Feedback on the draft procedure

Following closure of the feedback period, the Conservation Regulator made significant changes to the draft and undertook additional in-field testing. Additionally, the Conservation Regulator separated the draft procedure into two documents, an Assessment Tool and a Regulatory Guide.

Feedback received on the draft procedure has been summarised into the ‘Old growth forest field identification procedure - Engagement Report’.

Old growth forest field identification procedure - Engagement Report

Old growth forest field identification procedure - Engagement Report ACCESSIBLE

The Assessment Tool

The Old growth forest identification Assessment Tool outlines a step-by-step procedure that must be followed to identify old growth forest, so that it can be protected. The Assessment Tool must be consistently applied prior to timber harvesting throughout the State of Victoria.

Old growth forest identification - Assessment Tool

Old growth forest identification - Assessment Tool ACCESSIBLE

The Regulatory Guide

The Regulatory Guide provides information on the Conservation Regulator’s expectations for old growth forest protection. Specifically, the Regulatory Guide sets out requirements to identify and protect old growth forest before timber harvesting is undertaken and describes how the Conservation Regulator will monitor and report on compliance.

Old growth forest and timber harvesting - Regulatory Guide

Old growth forest and timber harvesting - Regulatory Guide ACCESSIBLE

Page last updated: 30/11/20