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Nationals use bushfire response to further weaken land-clearing controls

The NSW Government has used its response to the Black Summer bushfires to sneak through new land-clearing laws that will destroy thousands of hectares of forest and woodland. 

The Bushfires Legislation Amendment Bill that passed the Legislative Council last night with the support of the ALP will allow landholders to clear 25m-wide strips of bush all around their property without independent environmental assessment or approval. 

“The 25m land-clearing rule won’t reduce bushfire risk in extreme conditions but it will trash thousands of hectares of prime wildlife habitat,”  Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

“This is going to cause a completely unnecessary man-made disaster for wildlife and bushland — it’s about as useful as handing out free water pistols in the face of mega fires.

“If applied across the state, the 25m land-clearing rule could obliterate thousands of hectares of wildlife habitat and kill millions of native animals.

“This measure was not recommended by the Independent Bushfire Inquiry for a very good reason. 

“Experts say it won’t reduce bushfire risk in extreme conditions but it will cause unbelievable environmental harm.

“This is part of the National Party’s radical land-clearing agenda — it is not supported by science or expert opinion.”

 


Thousands of hectares of wildlife habitat threatened by government’s 25m clearing proposal

The NSW Government is pushing through changes to the Rural Fires Act that will lead to a 50m strip of bushland destruction around thousands of properties across the state.

WWF-Australia has estimated the changes put thousands of hectares of wildlife habitat at risk, including 12,000 hectares of high-quality koala habitat in just four local government areas they examined. [1] 

“These changes are not necessary, they won’t reduce bushfire risk but they will trash thousands of hectares of prime wildlife habitat,” Nature Conservation Council Campaigns Director Brad Smith said.

“The government wants to let landholders clear 25m strips of bushland on their side of the fence without independent environmental assessment of the impacts. 

“That potentially amounts to a 50m strip of bushland destruction around thousands of properties across NSW and the loss of thousands of hectares of vital wildlife habitat, including koala forests.

“This measure is driven by ideology and it is not supported by science or expert opinion.

“These measures were not recommended by the Independent Bushfire Inquiry for a very good reason — they won’t reduce bushfire risk in extreme conditions but they will cause untold environmental damage.

“This is more about unfettered land clearing than bushfire risk management and should be removed from the bill.”

Dr Smith said the Nature Conservation Council supports all the recommendations of the bushfire inquiry and applauds the government for committing to implementing them, but the 25m clearing change was not one of them.

The changes to the Rural Fires Act are included in Bushfires Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 introduced to parliament by Emergency Services Minister David Elliott this week. 

References

[1] Bush and koalas found to be threatened by 'gratuitous' NSW land-clearing plan, The Guardian, 26 October 2020.