Environment Minister Greg Hunt has excused himself from a decision on protection for an endangered bandicoot from new housing on Melbourne's south-eastern fringe because he is the local member and has a history with the issue.
The move has prompted accusations from some Victorian conservationists of a ''cop-out'' by Mr Hunt that sets an unworkable precedent for ministers.
The plan to protect the southern brown bandicoot from the impact of Melbourne's urban growth became contentious after the Napthine government dropped a requirement that two wildlife corridors be kept to allow the species to move through new housing.
It prompted a backlash from scientists and environmentalists, who want some form of corridor reinstated and the plan strengthened before it is approved by the federal government.
A decision on the bandicoot plan will now be made by the parliamentary secretary for the environment Simon Birmingham.
A spokesman for Mr Hunt said that, as the local member, the minister had been discussing this issue with various groups for years.
He sought advice from the department and was told he should leave the decision to his junior minister, the spokesman said.
Asked whether Mr Hunt would remove himself from future environmental approvals in his electorate of Flinders - such as a possible expansion of the Port of Hastings - the spokesman said they would ''be determined on a case-by-case basis, based on legal advice''.
Under a deal with the Commonwealth that allows Melbourne to expand, the Victorian government had to prepare conservation plans to offset the loss of rare grasslands and endangered species habitat in urban growth corridors.
The plans were signed off by the former federal Labor government, with the exception of the bandicoot plan, which was held up when property groups argued the proposed corridors were expensive and scientifically unproven.
Victorian National Parks Association executive director Matt Ruchel said: ''This is a cop-out that creates an unworkable precedent for any government minister.''
The southern brown bandicoot was once prevalent across south-east Melbourne, but habitat loss has seen it reduced to isolated spots on the city's fringe, notably the Royal Botanic Gardens in Cranbourne.