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Plan Harcourt (Amendment C94)

Harcourt town centre

What is Plan Harcourt?

Plan Harcourt, which can be viewed here, is a Council document that integrates two separate, but interrelated projects exploring spatial land use planning, town centre design and activation, and local economic development initiatives. The two projects are:

(1) The Harcourt Framework Plan
(2) Shine Harcourt Leanganook

A Harcourt Strategic Infrastructure Plan is also being prepared. Further information about the Harcourt Strategic Infrastructure Plan will be made available in mid 2022.

Why is Plan Harcourt needed?

Harcourt has been identified as a small town that can accommodate planned growth in the region. This is recognised in the Loddon Mallee South Regional Growth Plan 2014 and in the Mount Alexander Planning Scheme.

Future growth and change in the township needs to be carefully planned to promote and preserve local place values, and recognise the highly productive agricultural operations around the town. Furthermore, plans for growth in Harcourt should ensure that provisions are made for appropriate infrastructure, and that the existing natural and cultural features of the area are maintained for the benefit of future residents.

What is the Harcourt Framework Plan?

The Harcourt Framework Plan is a strategic planning document that forms the basis of future changes to the Mount Alexander Planning Scheme.

The Plan includes policy directions and a graphical map that designates future growth and change in the township, including the rezoning of land and the application of overlays. The proposed Plan can be viewed here.

The Planning Scheme currently includes policy and a framework (graphical) plan for Harcourt. It is proposed to update the policy and the framework (graphical) plan with the new policy and plan prepared by this process.

Timeline: Where are we now?


Plan Harcourt was adopted by Council at the Ordinary Meeting of Council on 21 July 2020. The Strategic Planning team has submitted documentation to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning seeking authorisation from the Minister for Planning to commence a planning scheme amendment (known as C94malx).

On 11 November, the Minister for Planning and DELWP authorised Council to proceed with the Amendment subject to conditions. This amendment will seek to introduce new policies, zones, and overlay controls, along with the framework (graphical) plan demonstrating residential and commercial areas, into the Planning Scheme. A formal public exhibition process will occur after the amendment has been authorised.

The amendment was on exhibition for a period of eight weeks from 11 January 2022 until 6 March 2022, during which time submissions were received from the public. Council considered all submissions at its Meeting on 21 June 2022. As not all matters raised within submissions were resolved, Council referred these to an independent planning panel to review and consider the outstanding issues. Over the course of three days in September 2022, the panel hearing was held and a number of submitters and Council presented their submissions to the panel.

The planning panel considered the submissions, and has provided its recommendations to Council about the amendment. The panel's recommendations can be viewed here.

Find out more information about the planning scheme amendment process.

Planning Panel's Recommendations & Next Steps

Council received the planning panel's report on 31 November 2022. The report can be viewed here.

Based on the reasons set out in the panel's report, the panel recommends that Mount Alexander Planning Scheme Amendment C94malx be abandoned. The Panel also makes the following further recommendations. That Council should:

Prepare a strategic level biodiversity assessment and revise the Amendment to ensure proposed planning provisions adequately consider biodiversity protection.

Prepare a commercial land demand assessment to inform the area proposed for rezoning to Commercial 1 Zone in the town centre.

Update Plan Harcourt to ensure it is consistent with the further work and updated Amendment.

Since the report was released, Council officers have been working through updating Amendment C94 documentation to address the panel’s recommendations. Officers have also received support from the Department of Transport and Planning’s Regional Planning Hub to prepare a strategic level biodiversity assessment that is to inform the amendment.

Currently, the assessment is at the procurement stage, where a suitably qualified and experienced biodiversity specialist/consultancy firm is being sought to carry out the work. The scope of the strategic level biodiversity assessment is detailed below. The below is a stage 1 assessment, which may lead to a stage 2 more detailed field assessment, dependent upon the findings of the stage 1 assessment.

Scope of strategic level biodiversity assessment

Stage 1: Project scope

The scope of work encompasses Stage 1 of the Strategic level biodiversity assessment which includes a desktop review, targeted consultation and site inspections of the Harcourt township (within the study area shown on the map available here.

This work and the detail of the final deliverable (Stage 1 Final Report) is to inform council and allow the consideration of how to proceed with further work on Amendment C94malx in accordance with the recommendations of the Panel for Amendment C94malx to the Mount Alexander Planning Scheme.

The Strategic Level Biodiversity Assessment (desktop review and site inspections) will require the following steps to be undertaken by suitably qualified and experienced staff.

Step 1 Inception (expected to take approx. 0.5 days):

• Confirmation of the project work plan and targeted consultation, which sets out the project methodology, projected timelines, payment milestones and outputs per phase of the project.

Step 2 Review:

• Review of documentation associated with Amendment C94malx, including background reports, proposed policy and
planning panel report.
• Undertake a desktop review of biodiversity assets at the landscape scale (across the Harcourt township being land within
the study area) to:
o identify any high value biodiversity assets (ecosystems and species) that would warrant planning scheme protection
o identify if there is a need to establish any strategic habitat and wildlife connection
o identify any significant native trees (All of the above tasks expected to take approx. 16 hours)
• Targeted Consultation (expected to take approx. 5 hours): Undertake targeted consultation with local knowledge groups
including Harcourt Valley Landcare, Harcourt Progress Association and Djaara to inform the above assessments.
• Site Inspections (expected to take approx. 40 hours): Undertake site inspections necessary to verify findings.

Step 3 Report (expected to take approx. 32 hours):

• Provide a report that details the findings of the above and recommendations on whether stage 2 (detailed field assessment) is needed.

In terms of timeframes, Council has statutory timeframes within the planning scheme amendment process that we must adhere to. This includes having to consider the panel’s report within 40 business days of it being published (an extension has been sought and granted for a further 90 days). Given the nature of Amendment C94malx and the range of land use planning considerations it includes, completing Stage 1 of the biodiversity assessment in a timely manner is critical to helping us understand what the next steps are of the wider amendment itself.

The stage 1 assessment report will be made public as part of the Amendment C94malx material via this webpage. This is likely to occur at the time when Council is considering it when deciding on the way forward with the amendment in the coming months.

What consultation has occurred up until now?

A discussion paper prepared by the Strategic Planning Unit was released for public comment in November 2018. Following this, Council undertook a range of community activities to inform and engage the Harcourt community in discussions about spatial planning, residential and commercial growth and town centre activation. This included two launch events at Harcourt Bowls Club and Goldfields Track Café, drop-in sessions in Harcourt, surveys, an online interactive map that allowed users to share their ideas, a workshop with Grade 5/6 students at Harcourt Valley Primary School, and meetings and conversations with community groups, government agencies and referral authorities.

A ‘What We Heard paper’ was released in April 2019, summarising feedback from the community and stakeholders.

The Shine Harcourt Leanganook consultation process has also informed the preparation of the draft Plan Harcourt, including the Shine Harcourt Ideas-a-thon and the Ideas Lab.

The draft Plan Harcourt was released for public consultation in November 2019. Two community drop-in sessions were held in Harcourt in November and December 2019, and the project team was also available to talk about the plan at the Harcourt Twilight Market in November 2019.

A public exhibition period was also held over January - March 2022 to provide the community opportunity to review the proposed amendment documentation and make submissions for or against the amendment. Several community drop-in sessions were held, along with meetings with interested stakeholders.


For further information, please contact Council’s Strategic Planning team on (03) 5471 1700 or email

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