Independent NSW MLC Justin Field has called on South Coast Government MPs and Ministers Shelley Hancock and Andrew Constance to back the recommendations of the Independent NSW Bushfire Inquiry and support tough controls around the Government controversial rural boundary clearing rules.
Media reports have pointed to another flashpoint within the Government over land clearing with a North Sydney council seeking an exemption from the boundary clearing rule that risks a proliferation of uncoordinated land clearing across rural land under the guise of bushfire protection.
The 25m rural boundary clearing laws passed the Parliament in November but the rules around the clearing were to be agreed in a ‘boundary clearing code’ set to go to Cabinet next week.
The boundary clearing rule was not a recommendation of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry report which called for more research into hazard reduction techniques, targeted use of hazard reduction in proximity to assets and a regional and local approach to planning and coordination of hazard reduction (see: recommednations 19, 20, and 21)
Independent NSW MP Justin Field said, “The bushfire response, particularly when it comes to hazard reduction should be about science and evidence, not about politics..
“I’m calling on Ministers Constance and Hancock to back the community, back local councils and agencies and back the findings of the Bushfire Inquiry. We need a coordinated, targeted and well researched approach to hazard reduction that builds trust and support within the community.
“The Government’s 25m boundary clearing rule is not based on any evidence and wasn’t a recommendation of the inquiry. It has the potential to exacerbate fire risk and will give some in the community a false sense of security,” Mr Field said.
Analysis conducted in four local Government areas across the state, including the Shoalhaven and Wollondilly, showed more than 44,000 hectares were at risk from the boundary clearing law.
See maps showing areas that will be significantly impacted by this rule in the Shoalhaven.
Mr Field said, “this policy could be a disaster for the Shoalhaven and Eurobodalla in particular. We risk seeing large scale clearing and the fragmenting of thousands of hectares of bushland, some of which is the last remaining unburnt habitat in the region and critical refuges for animals recovering from last season’s bushfires.
“Areas west of Camberwarra, around Falls Creek, Tomerong and Wandandian, and around Moruya and Narooma will be particularly impacted by this policy.
“I’m particularly concerned about coastal rural land held by developers who are hoping for future rezoning. This policy allows them to degrade the environmental values of their land under the guise of bushfire protection, in order to remove habitat that they would be required to protect or offset as part of future development.
“The public deserves to know how our local members, who are also Ministers, will be advocating on this policy when it comes to cabinet. I’m calling on them to back the science and back the inquiry report and to only support a clearing code that ensures hazard reduction strategies are locally coordinated and implemented.
“This carte blanche approach to vegetation clearing risks destroying thousands of hectares of vegetation for no discernable bushfire risk benefit,” Mr Field said.