A renewed push has been made to protect one of the last remaining pockets of littoral rainforest in the Tweed at Fingal Head, under threat from the controversial 10/50 vegetation-clearing code.
Environmental and community groups protested outside Tweed MP Geoff Provest’s office this week against the bushfire clearing rule, introduced in the wake of last year’s Blue Mountains fires but which have since been widely misused across the state to clearfell trees for views and development.
Last August, police and council rangers were called to a Fingal Head property after locals protested the landowner wiping out a pocket of rainforest to facilitate planned development (days after council knocked back the development plan and only weeks after the introduction of the new clearing code).
The Tweed protest was part of a statewide ‘Stop the Chop’ campaign to have the code repealed.
President of Fingal Coastcare Kay Bolton, said the code was introduced by the NSW coalition government ‘as a knee jerk reaction to the tragic Blue Mountain’s fires, but is now being used in the Tweed and across NSW by developers and residents to clear fell treed blocks for development and views’.
‘The Tweed has one of the richest and most diverse environments in Australia which makes it such a precious place to live, but unless we act to protect that environment we will lose it,’ Ms Bolton said.
‘Fingal Head for example, holds one of the few remaining pockets of littoral rainforest in the Tweed. This needs to be protected and preserved as littoral rainforests are listed as nationally critically endangered and at risk of extinction.
‘The state government pushed these 10/50 laws through parliament without thinking what impact they will have across the rest of the state, and the impact has been devastating.’
Ms Bolton said an ecologists’ expert report on the clearing of hundreds of square metres of critically endangered littoral rainforest at Fingal Head since the law was introduced had been referred by the NSW Environmental Defenders Office to the federal environment minister for his intervention.
She said the report found the clearing has had a significant adverse impact on one of the Tweed’s last pockets of critically endangered rainforest.
‘The 10/50 laws have seen at least one other property owner at Fingal Head seek approval from the federal minister to clear rainforest trees on their land for development purposes.’
Greens MP David Shoebridge said the NSW government ‘has so badly bungled these laws that the only remaining protection is the federal minister, who must now intervene to ensure that no more critically endangered vegetation is lost’.
‘Because the land owner thought they had carte blanche to clear the land under the 10/50 laws, there was no application made and no one checking to ensure this critically endangered rainforest was protected,’ Mr Shoebridge said.
‘Council’s attempt to protect this rainforest was undone by the state government’s botched laws which have put the landowner at risk of significant costs and penalties under the Commonwealth EPBC Act.
‘It’s not just this one site that is impacted by the 10/50 laws. This appalling law is opening thousands of sites across the state to damaging clearing without any formal oversight.
‘The loss of critically endangered littoral rainforest on this single site alone is reason enough to halt the operation of the code across NSW,’ the MP said.