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Listen to experts, not politicians, on bushfire risk management

Weakening the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code will not reduce bushfire risk in extreme conditions but it will push threatened species close to the brink, according to Nature Conservation Council CEO Chris Gambian. 

“Cabinet is reportedly considering a proposal today to more than double the area of bushland around homes that can be cleared without expert assessment and approval,” Mr Gambian said.

“If adopted, these changes would massively increase the amount of koala habitat and big old trees that can be cut down without a permit. 

“We have already lost thousands of hectares of bushland and thousands of big old trees under the 10/50 code. These changes would more than double that impact.”

Mr Gambian said the proposed changes were not among the 76 recommendations made by the expert panel established to examine the 2019-2020 bushfires led by former NSW police deputy commission Dave Owens and former chief scientist Mary O’Kane.

“The experts have handed down their report and made extensive recommendations, but now the politicians think they know better,” Mr Gambian said.

“We should let the experts, not politicians, decide how we can best prepare for bushfires.

“Why ask the experts to prepare a report if the politicians are then going to decide they know best.

“This proposal is not based on science and will not protect property, life or our unique wildlife. It’s a lose, lose. lose situation.”

A media report today quotes from what is purportedly a Cabinet-in-confidence memo:

Amendments include … 25m of vegetation clearing along fence lines according to a yet-to-be-approved code covering clearing in endangered and threatened species habitats, riparian corridors and clearing for non-bushfire risk mitigation purposes. [1]

“If the purpose of these changes was really to reduce fire risk, why does the memo mention ‘clearing for non-bushfire risk mitigation purposes’?” Mr Gambian said.

“Unscrupulous developers have already exploited the 10/50 code to improve views while cynically claiming to reduce bushfire risk. They must be licking their lips at the prospect of these changes.”

About the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Scheme

If you live in an area close to the bush, you need to prepare your home. The 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Scheme gives people living near the bush an additional way of preparing for bushfires.

The scheme allows people in a designated area to:

  • Clear trees on their property within 10 metres of a home, without seeking approval; and
  • Clear underlying vegetation such as shrubs (but not trees) on their property within 50 metres of a home, without seeking approval.

Source: 10/50 vegetation clearing



[1] Permitted NSW fire-prone clearing doubled, The Australian, 6-10-2020 

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