The levee maintenance permit scheme is set out in the Water Act 1989 and permits are issued by Catchment Management Authorities (CMA) as delegates of the Minister.
A levee maintenance permit can be issued to anyone who wishes to maintain a levee located on Crown land so long as they have made an application consistent with the Act.
A levee maintenance permit can authorise the person who holds it to:
- access a Crown land levee, including passing over Crown land
- remove specified trees and plants from the levee
- restore heavily eroded sections of the levee, and
- undertake minor maintenance of the levee for up to five years
The permit can authorise these activities across different Crown land tenures including National Parks, State Forests and Crown Land Reserves.
A levee maintenance permit does have limitations, however. It cannot authorise:
- the building of a new levee or the moving of a levee
- you to make the levee bigger than it originally was
- maintenance of a levee on private land, and
- you to use someone’s private land get access to the Crown land levee
A levee maintenance permit does not exist in isolation, however, as Crown land is used for many different purposes and has many laws that apply to it.
There are 2 key phases to obtaining a levee maintenance permit on Crown Land.
- Pre-Application phase.
- Application and Approval Phase
Pre-application phase is to ensure an exchange of information between the applicant and key agencies to help enable the permit applicant (where possible) to make an application that is in compliance with the Act.
In the Pre –Application phase the CMA will, in the first instance, discuss with the applicant:
- Where the levee they intend to maintain is
- The dimensions to which they wish to maintain the levee, and
- What might need to be included in their Work Plan, including tree removal and preferred access routes, to ensure that they are authorised to conduct all the activities required to maintain the levee.
The CMA will notify the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and the land managers that an expression of interest in seeking a Permit has been made. DELWP play a critical role in the permit scheme. They are able to provide information on land status and will often have information on cultural and environmental significance.
Identifying cultural heritage and environmental values at an early stage of the planning process will give the applicant the opportunity to design a Work Plan which avoids these values where possible and therefore avoiding the need for further approvals.
On the basis of the information provided by DELWP, the CMA should also be in a position to advise the applicant if they can reasonably expect that an application for a permit would be approved and under what conditions, which will enable the applicant to assess their potential costs before proceeding further.
If the application looks likely to proceed, the CMA may organise a site visit with the applicant, Crown land manager and/or DELWP. The Crown land manager (Parks Vic for example) is critical at this time in identifying any local issue. Their attendance at the site visit will enable them to flag any conditions they may put on the permit in response to local issues thus enabling the applicant to build those conditions into their Work Plan.
Before making an application, it is important to remember that Crown land is managed for a range of purposes including recreational, economic, environmental and cultural heritage purposes. Accessing and undertaking activities on Crown land needs to be done in a way that respects those purposes and sometimes - depending on the nature of the land - this can become expensive. As a consequence, when applying for a Crown land levee maintenance permit you should also consider other ways to protect your assets from flood risk as these may be more cost effective for you. Other options include raising the floor levels of buildings or creating smaller ‘curtilage’ levees around specific infrastructure. The CMA can discuss these options with you.
- Once we receive your pre-application form the CMA will forward it to DELWP who prepare a Land Status report and Land Assessment report. This will determine if the levee maintenance works sit within this permit scheme.
- The CMA will conduct a site visit of the levee with both the applicant and the Crown land manager. The purpose of the site visit is to facilitate a conversation between the CMA and the applicant about:
- the location of the levee,
- dimensions that the levee can be maintained to,
- what a permit can and cannot authorise and the role that the levee plays in the floodplain, including in relation to the broader system
- the most appropriate access routes to access the levee, considering the potential to trigger other approvals(eg under the Cultural Heritage Act, Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
- Lodgement of an application. The CMA will make available an application form and an application kit that will provide guidance on the following:
- An Application Form
- Map of the levee system with significant features marked
- A Work Plan for maintenance activities
- Signed approval of relevant Crown land lessees, if applicable
- Proof of Insurance
- A Cultural Heritage Assessment (and Management Plan), if applicable
- Location of any threatened flora and fauna communities within the vicinity (if applicable)
- Permit issued and works undertaken.