The Department of Sustainability and Environment was established by the Bracks Labor Government in its second term and proclaimed in the Government Gazette, S 231, 5 December 2002. It was described as a name change under the Public Sector Management and Employment Act 1998, meaning the name Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE; VA 3972) was changed to Department of Sustainability and Environment.
At its creation, the Department of Sustainability and Environment reported to the Minister for Environment, Minister for Water and the Minister for Planning. While the new DSE retained many functions of the former DNRE, some functions were moved. These included the function of primary production, which became the responsibility of the new Department of Primary Industries (VA 4563). Aboriginal Affairs passed to the Department for Victorian Communities (VA 4562), and Energy went to the Department of Infrastructure (VA 3971). DSE also gained responsibility for planning, formerly the responsibility of the Department of Infrastructure.
The primary functions undertaken by the Department of Sustainability and Environment were:
- coasts and marine
- conservation and environment
- fire and other emergencies
- land and water management
- parks and reserves
- plants and animals
- property, titles and maps
- nature-based tourism and recreation
Please note that the tourism function related primarily to the development of tourism and recreation in national parks and other public lands, through Parks Victoria and related agencies. The primary function of tourism was carried out through Tourism Victoria (VA 4192).
Following the re-election of the Bracks Government in December 2006, the Ministerial portfolios of Environment and Water were amalgamated and renamed the Minister for Water, Environment and Climate Change. The transfer of Acts was carried out as part of Administrative Arrangements Order No. 192, published in the Victorian Government Gazette No. S 317 on 5 December 2006.
As part of the machinery of government changes following the 2006 election, the Government also established an Office for Water within DSE. The function of this Office was to assess issues relating to water in Victoria, and to ensure that a sustainable water saving plan was followed. An Office of Climate Change was also established, within the Department of Premier and Cabinet (VA 1039), in order to coordinate a whole of Government response to climate change.
Following the 2006 election, functions of the DSE remained unchanged. It reported to the Minister for Water, Environment and Climate Change and the Minister for Planning.
On 9 April 2013 DSE was renamed the Department of Environment and Primary Industry (DEPI) (VA 5002) by Order of the Governor-in-Council under section 10 (c) of the Public Administration Act 2004 (Victorian Government Gazette, S 124). The name change was part of machinery-of-government changes made by the Coalition Government under the new leadership of Premier the Hon Dr Denis Napthine MP in April 2013, and resulted in the transfer of existing DSE agencies and functions except Land Victoria (VA 862) to DEPI (VA 5002).