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Rural Boundary Clearing Code opens up more bushland for destruction

A new land-clearing code introduced by the NSW Government on Saturday could result in thousands of hectares of previously protected bushland being cleared on the spurious grounds of bushfire risk reduction. [1] 

“The new Rural Boundary Clearing Code could see thousands of hectares of wildlife habitat destroyed without requiring independent assessment of the environmental impacts,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“These codes do nothing practical to protect properties from catastrophic bushfires but they are guaranteed to increase deforestation and habitat fragmentation across large parts of the state.  

“Neither the NSW Bushfire Inquiry nor the Royal Commission recommend land clearing on property boundaries as a valid response to the Black Summer fires, but politicians in the government think they know better. Now we are stuck with a bad law that could do tremendous harm to the environment. 

“If these codes stand, it will be a black mark on the record of Matt Kean who in many respects has been a good minister for the environment. It would be shame if he were remembered for this rather than his more positive contributions.” 

NSW National Party MPs last year used the tragedy of the catastrophic 2019-20 bushfires to push their agenda of further weakening of land-clearing controls. 

They proposed letting landholders clear a 25m strip around their boundary even though none of the bushfires inquiries recommended such measures. 

Under the code, if neighbours took up their new rights, 50m-wide strips of clearing would occur across large parts of the state. 

The government passed the Bushfires Legislation Amendment Bill to enable the clearing last November but the devil was always going to be in the detail of the codes.  

Late last year, the Nature Conservation Council wrote to key ministers detailing minimum environmental standards any new code must meet, especially excluding areas of koala and other threatened species habitat. 

“The code could mean the difference between survival and extinction for koalas and other threatened species in some parts of the state, so it was vital that the government got this right,” Mr Gambian said.   

References 

[1] Rural Boundary Clearing Tool  

[2] Bush Fire Environmental Assessment Code 

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