Independent NSW MP and South Coast resident Justin Field has slammed the release of new land clearing rules that could see hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests and bushland on private land cleared under the guise of bushfire protection.
The release of a new Rural Land Clearing Code over the weekend now means rural landholders and Crown landholders can clear a 25 metre boundary around properties with limited environmental protections. The online map shows the extent of clearing possible under the code.
The new code was allowed under changes to the Rural Fires Act that passed the NSW Parliament in 2020. The rules will not apply to Sydney basin local government areas with those councils given opt-in provisions after a backlash to the proposal.
Independent NSW MP Justin Field said, “These rules will be a disaster for regional communities. We’re going to see vegetation bulldozed, chopped down, piled up and likely burnt across the state as a result of this decision with almost no regard to the environmental impact.
“This is going to pit neighbour against neighbour and will create massive fragmentation of bushland, leading to a further drying out of the landscape that may increase bushfire risks.
“The 2020 Bushfire Inquiry report was clear that more research was needed into “...hazard reduction techniques to understand better the cost versus benefit and effectiveness of different practices in various circumstances…(recommendation 21)”
“Instead the Government has ignored that recommendation and allowed this push from the Nationals and some in the Liberal Party who used the 2019/20 bushfires to open up a massive new land clearing regime.
“These rules will be particularly damaging for coastal communities where developers or other rural land holders will be able to use this code to degrade the environmental values of their land to allow for further development.
“The minor protections in this code are going to be incredibly difficult to enforce with clearing able to happen based on landholder self assessment. It will render existing protections against rural land clearing almost useless and undo decades of work trying to address the damage of the past and create wildlife corridors to restore nature.
“In a few years time we’re going to realise this has been disastrous public policy that may have worsened local bushfire risks and has had disastrous environmental outcomes.