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April 20, 2021

Lismore challenges clearing code to save koalas

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Lismore council is challenging a new law that allows property owners to remove trees without approval.
Lismore council is challenging a new law that allows property owners to remove trees without approval.

Darren Coyne

Lismore City Council wants changes to laws that allow landowners to clear trees and vegetation without approval.

Cr Vanessa Ekins last night successfully moved a motion that the council make an urgent submission to a review of the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code.

The code allows property owners living within 350 metres of category 1 and category 2 Bush Fire Prone Land to remove trees within 10 metres of their home, as well as vegetation within 50 metres, without state or local approval.

The council heard from a number of residents living along James Road, Lismore, who were concerned about the recent clearing of koala-food trees.

Echonetdaily has previously reported that the Code had been used by property owners in the Tweed area to clear native vegetation.

The Code was introduced to allow people living near bushland to increase their level of protection against bush fires, following concerns raised by homeowners after devastating blazes destroyed more than 200 homes last year.

But Cr Ekins said the code was being abused, causing the loss of much loved urban greenery as well as endangered ecological communities and threatened species such as koalas.

In its submission, the council will point out the Code was introduced without adequate consultation or proper mapping to define clearing entitlement areas.

Cr Ekins said the 10/50 Code overrides all protections for trees and vegetation in 10/50 vegetation clearing entitlement areas that are found in the council’s tree protection orders, Local Environment Plans and Development Control Plans.

‘The Code also overrides all state legal protections for threatened species and endangered ecological communities, and in particular Lismore’s Koala Plan of Management (KPoM) which applies to the urban area of Lismore and land in the southeast of the local government area.’

She said the Code undermines the community’s expressed desire to protect the natural environment as expressed in Lismore’s Community Strategic Plan.

As a result of the motion, the council will request that comprehensive mapping of the clearing entitlement areas in the local government area be made publicly available, including the criteria for defining such areas.

As well, the council wants a scientific review into the ecological impacts and actual bushfire hazard reduction benefits of the provisions.

The council also wants a process local councils can seek to opt out of some or all of the provisions of the 10/50 Code, and that the area covered by Lismore’s Koala Plan of Management be exempt.

‘The 10/50 Clearing Code is already changing the streetscape of Lismore City and we urge the NSW Rural Fire Service to consider the detrimental impact this hasty Code will have on koala habitat and the natural environment we value as a community,’ her motion said.

Submissions to the Code review close on Friday.

Cr Greg Bennett attempted to move an amendment asking that the clearing zones actually be increased, but he was unsuccessful.


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