ENVIRONMENT groups are pushing for the Victorian Government not to ease native vegetation rules.
The Government is reviewing the rules that farmers have labelled "onerous" and say have stifled agricultural production.
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Thirty-six national, state, regional and local environment and conservation groups last week called on the Government to consult extensively during the review.
In a joint statement representing the environment groups, Victorian National Parks Association executive director Matt Ruchel said native vegetation rules were the cornerstone of efforts to protect native habitats and wildlife on private land.
They were "too important to be changed behind closed doors", he said.
He said the Government had not announced a formal policy, scope or consultation process.
The groups claim Victoria is the most cleared and ecologically stressed state in Australia and native vegetation rules are critical to reverse the decline in habitats.
But Victorian Farmers Federation president Andrew Broad said there was "no doubt the current system doesn't work and needs to change". "The government has committed to change that," he said.
Native vegetation rules had gone overboard, had harmed farmers' ability to farm and had created bushfire hazards, he said.
"A lot of groups who said you can't cut down a tree or trim any native grasses still have to bear some of the responsibility of what happened on Black Saturday," he said.
Mr Broad called for the review to make the rules less onerous and more practical for farmers.
A Victorian Government spokeswoman said the Department of Sustainability and Environment was asked to conduct a review of the native vegetation rules after biodiversity and conservation planning for Melbourne's growth areas was finalised.
"The review will assess the extent to which the native vegetation framework has met its stated objectives, and has been efficient and effective in doing so," she said.
"Views of stakeholders will be sought as part of this process. We won't be speculating on final outcomes, or possible legislative changes, until the review process is complete."