Department of Health

Conservation and native vegetation in cemeteries

Key messages

  • Cemeteries are places of cultural, historical and ecological significance.
  • Cemetery trusts need to be aware of their obligations under relevant conservation and heritage legislation.
  • Cemetery trusts may need to gain permission to undertake new works and maintenance projects, and to remove or maintain native vegetation.

Conservation and planning

Victorian cemeteries are not just a place for the interment of deceased persons. They provide a link to Victoria’s heritage and are places of cultural, historical and ecological significance.

Cemetery trusts must take these different functions into consideration when undertaking any works or maintenance within a cemetery. This includes erecting a new structure, the removal of native vegetation and any other key works that have a significant impact upon the character of the cemetery.

Trusts have an obligation to check for and be aware of any heritage or other planning overlays that may apply to the cemeteries they manage before undertaking any works or maintenance. Advice can be sought from local council and the National Trust of Australia (Victoria)External Link .

It is important that cemetery trusts consult with all relevant stakeholders when planning key projects. For example, trusts should consult with surrounding neighbours when planning the removal of boundary trees or other major projects that may impact on the amenity of the cemetery and surrounding private residences.


Cemetery trusts should be sensitive to the increased public awareness in the heritage value and the need for conservation of historic components of public cemeteries.

If a heritage overlay applies to a cemetery, this may impact the trust’s ability to undertake what would otherwise be considered relatively minor maintenance, for example, repainting cemetery structures and buildings, or resurfacing roads. For this reason, trusts should ensure they are fully informed of any overlays applicable to the cemeteries they manage.

Native vegetation

Native vegetation is protected in Victoria. Native vegetation includes all plants that were growing naturally in Victoria before European arrival and excludes plants that originate from other parts of Australia or from other countries.

If a trust believes there is a need to clear native vegetation or remove trees, they must contact their local council and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to determine what is required before starting any works.

More information about native vegetationExternal Link is available on the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning website.

Relevant legislation

Cemetery trusts, staff and contractors need to be aware of the range of relevant conservation and heritage legislation including:

  • Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988
  • Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
  • Planning and Environment Act 1987
  • Heritage Act 1995
  • Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994
  • Wildlife Act 1975

Ignorance of applicable overlays is not an acceptable excuse for not obtaining the appropriate permits prior to undertaking work. The onus is on each cemetery trust to be aware of the legislation relevant to the public cemeteries they manage.

Reviewed 19 October 2023


Contact details

Hours: Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 5.00 pm

Cemetery Sector Governance Support GPO Box 4057, Melbourne, VIC 3001

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