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Are committees and inquiries different to panels?

Planning Panels Victoria members may be appointed by the Minister for Planning to provide advice. Depending on the matter, the minister will appoint either an advisory committee or environment effects inquiry.

Panels, advisory committees and environment effects inquiries tend to operate in a similar way in terms of hearing procedures and conduct. However, the terms of reference for committees and inquiries will provide specific guidance on what is required and how hearings are to be conducted.

Find out more about types of panels.

Advisory committees

An advisory committee is appointed under section 151 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 to advise on any matter that the minister refers to it.

An advisory committee is used to obtain advice from experts following some level of public engagement. An advisory committee is appointed with terms of reference approved by the minister.

An advisory committee is generally established to consider matters under one of the following categories:

  • proposals for a specific site, usually for a particular development of that site
  • to review planning controls or policy that does not necessarily apply to a particular site or area, for example, car parking controls and planning provisions
  • matters called-in by the minister from the Planning and Environment List of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, known as appeal call-ins.

Environment effects inquiries

An inquiry is appointed to inquire into the environment effects of works to which the Environment Effects Act 1978 applies. It will consider submissions and inquire into the environment effects of such a project whenever an Environment Effects Statement (EES) has been prepared.

An environment effects inquiry is held when the minister determines a project may have significant effects on the environment, for example:

  • major road projects
  • significant port and marine infrastructure
  • large energy projects including power stations and wind farms
  • land development proposals with significant environment effects
  • large mining projects

The minister will provide terms of reference to help guide the scope of consideration and the conduct of the inquiry.


Advisory committees and environment effects inquiries have an obligation to provide advice to the Minister for Planning. The terms of reference specify when the committee or inquiry must submit its report to the minister.

The minister has complete discretion about the release of committee or inquiry reports to the public. There is no formal or statutory requirement to release the report.

View completed reports, or browse Australasian Legal Information Institute where all reports are permanently available.

Page last updated: 20/06/23