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Saturday, 31 January 2015 23:01

Interim Changes to 10/50 Code not Enough

Local environment groups have been calling for a moratorium on bushfire clearing under the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code while the public inquiry is held to no avail. On 26 November 2014 the Rural Fire Service announced changes to the rules that reduced the clearing entitlement area in most areas from 350 m to 100 m from bushfire prone land (see STEP Matters, Issue 178, p6 for more information).

The continuation of wanton tree destruction is demonstrated by the item in the Hornsby Advocate last month about illegal dumping of woodchips; 50 tonnes was collected by Hornsby Council in a single day.

The fundamental problems with the current Code are summarised in this statement from the Nature Conservation Council:

The Code will fundamentally undermine biodiversity and protection of urban amenity, including loss of shade, views and habitat for birds, possums and other wildlife, as well as increasing the heat island effect in large towns and cities, a growing concern considering global warming. The Code is not science based and flies in the face of evidence that tree canopies can assist in sheltering homes from wind-blown burning embers generated by bushfires and that a resident tree canopy in residential areas can also mitigate violent winds associated with thunderstorms.

Some councils have applied for exemption from the Code and others have proposed amendments that, like the government's changes to date, have tinkered around the edges of the main problem, which is the Code undermines an effective system of assessment, advice and approval that is already in place. It has been implemented over many years under a cooperative arrangement and with technical support provided by the Rural Fire Service to enable homeowners to undertake bush fire protection works that complement local council processes.

There is no guarantee that any council will receive an exemption from the Code and many have not sought an exemption.

With the introduction of the legislation, hundreds of trees have been chopped down for reasons other than bushfire protection, such as improving views or the supposed inconvenience of dropping leaves. While the rate of destruction has slowed it will continue as new residents move into treed areas and take advantage of the opportunity to remove a tree that was enjoyed by the previous owner.

We will continue to fight the legislation.

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