Our ecological consulting team brings a wealth of experience and skills to Practical Ecology. They have an in-depth knowledge of the flora and fauna of south-eastern Australia and have outstanding skills and experience in managing projects for a wide variety of clients. We are able to provide baseline information on existing ecological values, identify opportunities and constraints, and provide a practical approach to the application of state and federal government legislation and environmental policy.
Provided below is an overview of the ecological consulting services we offer. Note that these services are not exhaustive, as we can also undertake other unique ecological consulting projects to meet your particular requirements.
Assistance with Planning and Approval Processes
Proposed development on sites containing ecological values generally requires a local government planning permit, and in some cases, additional approval from state or federal government departments. Other planning process, such as Planning Scheme amendments to rezone land, also require approval from planning panels and relevant government ministers. Practical Ecology’s knowledge of applicable legislation and policy means that we can detect problems early and propose practical solutions that will facilitate an efficient and cost effective planning process.
Following on from a flora and fauna (ecological) assessment, (and often a bushfire risk assessment), our consultants advise landowners of the opportunities and constraints on site and the ramifications of any associated legislation and policy. Once a final site layout is decided, we undertake an impact analysis of the proposed development. A Property Management Plan can then follow if required.
If native vegetation offsets are required for removal of native vegetation we can assist in providing these. If the property is within a Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) or a Bushfire Prone Area (BPA) we can also provide a Bushfire Management Statement and Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment as required.
Our approach gives our clients’ applications the best chance of satisfying permit requirements by achieving a practical balance between development, environmental protection and bushfire risk. This comprehensive and integrated approach saves our clients time and expense.
Flora Surveys and Vegetation Assessments
Practical Ecology’s knowledge of south-eastern Australia’s flora means our ecologists rapidly compile comprehensive plant lists and undertaken targeted flora surveys for significant species or weeds. We can also review databases to determine which species have been recorded in the area and determine if they are likely to occur on your site based on a habitat analysis.
Our staff are all also highly experienced in undertaking Habitat Hectare assessment and other types of assessments that aim to provide a determination of the quality of the vegetation that is present on a site. With this, we have developed an in-depth knowledge of the types of vegetation communities that occur across south-eastern Australia.
Fauna Surveys and Habitat Assessments
Practical Ecology has dedicated zoologists able to undertake fauna surveys and complete fauna habitat assessments for both private and public clients. We have a relevant permits and animal ethics approval and use the latest fauna-monitoring equipment.
We can conduct fauna surveys using:
- spotlighting for nocturnal species
- Elliot traps for small mammals
- cage traps for larger animals
- pitfall traps
- tiles grid surveys and funnel traps for reptiles
- motion-sensitive infrared camera traps (a less-invasive and successful fauna monitoring technique)
- Anabat detectors and recording animal calls, and
- nestboxes, as part of ongoing monitoring programs for particular species.
A fauna habitat assessment, often completed in conjunction with a fauna survey, involves an assessment of the habitat values present within a site to determine its potential to support particular fauna groups or species. This is particularly relevant for fauna species listed as rare or threatened and known to occur within the local area.
Property Management Plans
Practical Ecology’s Property Management Plans initially provide a comprehensive picture of a site’s ecological values (and bushfire risk) and determine the important management issues that require attention. This may include weed invasion, ecological burning, introduced animals and degradation from inappropriate use. The site is then divided into convenient management zones with the risks and opportunities identified and considered to develop land-use and management objectives for each zone. Detailed management recommendations are made, such as a species-by-species guide to weed control, the need for any pest animal control, or any required salvage and translocation of significant species (for development sites). Practical Ecology’s plans have a focus on encouraging natural regeneration, although revegetation may be prescribed in degraded areas.
As Practical Ecology are also experienced at completing on-ground works like weed control and native vegetation restoration, we are determined to prepare Property Management Plans that are as realistic as they are effective. Many of our own Property Management Plans are implemented on the ground by our Ecological Restoration and Land Management team.
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act means that Federal approval is required when a proposed development may have a significant impact on ‘matters of national environmental significance’ (NES). Practical Ecology’s understanding of the assessment and referral processes means we give our clients the best chance of satisfying EPBC requirements to minimise the risk of the delays that poorly prepared submissions can encounter.
Although EPBC referrals are independent of state planning permit requirements they both use similar information. Practical Ecology’s reports can easily be adapted to satisfy both. We also suggest ways of avoiding or mitigating the impacts of the proposed development and can develop property management plans, both of which help obtain federal (and state government) approval.
Flora and Fauna Salvage and Translocation
When new roads, buildings and other developments are planned there is a legislative requirement to avoid harming native plants and animals – particularly threatened flora and fauna species. Where impacts can’t be avoided, government agencies may require some plants and animals to be moved as part of their planning permit approval. Practical Ecology is experienced in incorporating salvage and translocation into our comprehensive Property Management Plans, or can prepare and implement species/project specific Salvage and Translocation Plans depending on your needs. As part of this process Practical Ecology identifies the species to be moved, the best way to move them, and where they’ll be moved to, if not already prescribed (usually a dedicated conservation area).
For flora species, we also identify whether the plants themselves will be re-planted or whether they’ll first be relocated to a nursery so new plants can be grown from seed or cuttings. We also establish a program to monitor the success of the project, both to demonstrate the effectiveness of the relocations and also refine salvage techniques for the future.
Fauna salvage often involves attendance on site during initial construction works to salvage and translocate any fauna utilising a site as habitat. The detection and management of fauna displaced during tree removal works, or initial soil excavation, is a speciality of Practical Ecology.
Due Diligence Assessments
Practical Ecology provides due diligence ecological and bushfire assessments so our clients can make informed decisions before purchasing or developing a property. By being aware of the environmental significance and bushfire risk of the site and associated implications early in the development process, our clients can make important investment decisions informed by the best available knowledge.
Our consultants initially undertake a desktop review of the site before inspecting it. We then compile a brief report clearly presenting pertinent information along with the associated legislative implications, together with maps and GPS data if necessary. For clients wanting to pursue purchase and/or development of the site, Practical Ecology can then use this information as the basis of the more comprehensive report to accompany a planning permit application.
Developers, councils and other planning authorities often need to check the veracity of ecological (and bushfire risk) information when reviewing planning permit applications. Practical Ecology’s knowledge and expertise allows us to undertake this review of on the behalf of clients.
We aim to initially determine if the information provided accurately represents the ecological values and/or bushfire hazard present on site, often through a site visit to gather our own information. We also thoroughly check methodology and calculations and decide whether or not relevant ecological (and bushfire) policies have been appropriately applied in the context of the site and the development proposal. If required, our consultants will present their findings to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
Expert Opinion for Planning Appeals
Sometimes environmental planning issues have to be resolved by a court, Planning Panel or in Victoria, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). Practical Ecology’s expert witnesses are respected as credible environmental and bushfire experts who present complex issues in a clear, concise manner.
All Practical Ecology’s reports are prepared with the understanding that we might be called upon to present them as evidence as part of legal processes that may arise in due course. It is therefore easy to adapt them into an ‘expert witness statement’ that suits the legal forum if required. Our expert witness then appears before the forum to support our statement and the report it is based on. If required, we can conduct additional research to better support our clients.