Prior to the introduction of the new code, residents had to obtain approval to remove vegetation for bushfire protection. In the process expert advice was provided on vegetation management by the local council or Rural Fire Service. The government claims that this was too much red tape and too costly.
Now residents are left on their own to assess their bushfire risk and it appears that often convenience and water views are more important.
Some of the faults of the legislation have been recognised. The fact there are 30 such faults is a damning indictment of the government in enacting such poor legislation that has already led to the destruction of over 5000 trees in the Sydney region alone, many of which were vital habitat for wildlife and not a bushfire risk.
Most of the amendments are to exclude areas that should have been recognised in the first place, for example:
- world heritage areas, Ramsar wetlands, national parks and nature reserves
- core koala habitat
- critically endangered communities and plants such as Blue Gum High Forest
- wetlands, mangroves, saltmarshes and littoral rainforest
- land within 100 m of coastline and estuaries
- Lord Howe Island
The anomaly that excluded protection for riparian zones in most of Sydney has been removed.
Land near category 2 classified bushland will now be excluded from the legislation and councils can classify small urban reserves as category 2 even if they contain category 1 vegetation.
The 10/50 metre rules no longer allow measurements from a neighbour’s house unless the neighbour gives written consent.
As can be seen from the amendments, the original legislation ignored some ridiculous situations where vegetation could not possibly be a bushfire hazard.
The code still overrides the bulk of the Threatened Species Conservation Act and local council tree preservation orders.
The fight continues …