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Tuesday, 30 June 2015 23:41

State Government Ignored Expert Advice on 10/50 Bushfire Clearing Legislation

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests made by the Stop the Chop alliance have revealed that the NSW Government ignored expert advice when deciding to enact the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice. What were they thinking? Their attempt to make easy political capital out of the Blue Mountains bushfires in September 2013 has backfired. This misguided legislation is causing irreparable damage from the cutting down of thousands of trees for reasons other than bushfire protection.

The first FOI request revealed that, even before the legislation was enacted, an assessment by the NSW Rural Fire Service of the similar Victorian 10/30 legislation allowing people living in fire prone areas to cut down trees within10 m of their homes would not help with bushfire safety and may add to risks. One key problem identified is the breaking of the relationship between fire experts and property owners, The document also revealed issues with clearing on steep slopes, damage to riparian zones, heritage areas and significant vegetation.

The second FOI request revealed that, in November 2014, at the early stages of the enquiry into the code, the Rural Fire Service received Office of Environment and Heritage advice that the code could cause land slippage and soil erosion, ignored environmental impacts to flora and fauna, operated ‘inconsistently with current planning guidelines’. Office of Environment and Heritage recommended a return to the pre-10/50 bushfire management system in ‘some or all of NSW’. Despite this advice demands from local environmental groups to suspend the code have been ignored.

There were 3454 public submissions to the Rural Fire Service review of the code, with 97% opposed to the law

The relaxing of land-clearing laws was prompted by the 2013 bushfires, which destroyed close to 200 homes in the Blue Mountains. But the Blue Mountains City Council has voiced its concerns. Council members unanimously passing a mayoral minute that noted the impacts of the code were cumulative but ‘not readily measurable’ since residents aren't required to give notice of their clearing. ‘This was meant to be about bushfire protection,’ Mayor Mark Greenhill said. ‘It was not meant to be a new way of land-clearing with no regulation around it.’

The outcome from the enquiry into the legislation is promised shortly after parliament resumes in August. Surely they will have enough nous to stop the tree destruction that is causing so much angst in the community. One only has to look at the Stop the Chop Facebook to get a sense for the furious opposition.

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