Referral Authorities

The role of referral authorities in planning process

Council will refer an application to any Referral Authority as directed by the planning scheme or to which it considers may have an interest in the application. In most circumstances Referral Authorities have 28 days in which to provide comment on an application. Council may also refer the application to any other public authority or group that may have an interest in the application

Who are Referral Authorities

Referral Authorities are often government or private corporations or organizations such as the local catchment authority (WGCMA), the Country Fire Association (CFA), Vic Roads or Telstra among others. All Section 55 referral authorities are listed in Clause 66 of the Latrobe Planning Scheme.

Why planning applications referred

Council refers planning permit applications to other authorities for comment in order to ensure that the functions and works of that particular authority are not adversely affected by the permit, or also that particular authority may have to provide certain infrastructure to facilitate the proposed use or development, or that the authority may have powers to decide upon the granting of the permit.

Effect of Referral Authority on planning application

A Referral Authority can have a significant effect or no effect or on a planning permit depending on its status under the Planning and Environment Act 1987. Referral Authorities can impose certain conditions that have to be met in order for the permit to be granted, such as a CMA conditioning that a house must be raised a certain height in a flood zone area. A section 55 Authority can object to the issue of a permit in which case council must reject the granting of the permit. You can appeal the Council’s decision in VCAT if you are dissatisfied with conditions imposed a Referral Authority

Common referral authorities

Country Fire Authority (CFA)

If a planning permit is required for an application in the Bushfire Management Overlay, CFA is a referral authority under section 55 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987. Council refers the application to CFA for comment.

The applicant’s role is to prepare an application that meets the mandatory application requirements (e.g. submission of a Site and Locality Description and a Bushfire Management Statement).

CFA may also be asked to provide advice under section 52 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987. CFA can provide advice on the bushfire hazard and appropriate bushfire protection measures. In these circumstances CFA may still recommend that permit conditions be included or that the application should be refused.

West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA)

The Latrobe Planning Scheme identifies areas that are affected by flooding and place controls on these areas through overlays which related to the type of flooding and their level of risk.

The controls aim to reduce flood risk, by ensuring developments are protected from flooding, while allowing for the free movement and temporary storage of floodwaters.

Most proposals in an area covered the Land Subject to Inundation Overlay (LSIO) or Flooding Overlay (FO) will require a planning permit. The relevant council must refer applications for a permit authority under section 55 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 to the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA). As a referral authority, the WGCMA can direct council to refuse a permit, or it can specify conditions to be included in the permit.

Furthermore, if a planning permit is required for an application in or buildings and works close to a designated waterway WGCMA can be notified under section 52 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987. WGCMA may recommend conditions to be included as part of any approved planning permits application

Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR)

The Earth Resources Regulator aims to ensure that earth resource developments do not pose environmental and public safety risks and are accountable to local communities. As a result some proposals require land use separation or ‘buffers’ and consideration must be given to the effects of development on nearby areas.

Some planning permit applications on land affected by specific overlays e.g. DDO, ESO are referred to DEDJTR under section 55 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 to assess potential hazard risks and amenity concerns.

If a section 55 referral is not required under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 Council may still choose to notify DEDJTR about a proposal under section 52 for consideration.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP)

DELWP is a recommending referral authority for applications to remove native vegetation and works on public land. Some moderate risk-based pathway applications for permit are not referred to DELWP, some low-risk pathway applications are referred to DELWP.

DELWP and Council assess the impact of the proposal to Victoria’s biodiversity in accordance with Clause 52.17, and the Guidelines. DELWP provides recommendations to Council on planning permit applications. A compliant offset must be secured, to the satisfaction of DELWP or Council, before the native vegetation is removed. A planning permit condition must specify this requirement.


A planning permit application which proposes any physical change to the opportunity for traffic to approach or enter a road in a Road Zone Category 1 (RDZ1) or any change to the use or development of land that may result in changes to the opportunity for traffic to approach or enter a road in a RDZ1 in terms of the volume, frequency or type of traffic are referred to VicRoads under section 55 of the of the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

Some planning applications for signage adjacent to RDZ1 are also referred to Vic Roads.

Other referral authorities include (but are not limited to):

Non-statutory referrals of planning permit applications

An application may be given to other Council departments for advice and recommendations, including the following:

  • Health Department
  • Infrastructure Department
  • Building Department
  • Strategic Planning
  • Environment Department
  • Community Strengthening
  • Recreation Department
  • Governance Department

Sometimes you may be advised by Council to contact the relevant Referral Authority to discuss your proposal prior to the lodgement of your planning application.  In some cases, the response that the Referral Authorities provide can mean the difference between a planning application getting approved or refused.