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Byron Shire
April 18, 2021

Rainforest clearing at Fingal ‘a wakeup call’

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The federal government has been called on to stop endangered vegetation being wiped out as a result of the state government’s controversial bushfire-zone land-clearing laws which saw a littoral rainforest remnant on a private property at Fingal Head chopped down recently.

The laws have also seen hundreds of old and historic trees in Sydney’s leafy suburbs chopped down, mostly for better views or development opportunities.

The Greens say the Fingal Head incident highlights the state government having ‘badly bungled’ its bushfire-protection vegetation law, known as the ’10/50′ rules, and that the only remaining protection for critically endangered vegetation was the federal environment minister’s intervention.

In August, police and Tweed Shire Council officers were called to a property in Queen Street, Fingal Head, where outraged neighbours protested over the felling of the remnant by a tree-felling crew contracted by the landowner who had a subdivision bid for the property knocked back by council several days prior.

But council officers found there was nothing they could do to stop the felling, done under the new laws aimed to protect homes in bushfire danger zones and passed by state government only days before, and lifted a temporary stop-work order.

Some residents described the felling of hundreds of square metres at the property which they say is part of a critically endangered ecological community (EEC) which is protected under federal law as a ‘massacre’.

Yesterday, the NSW Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) sent a highly critical report of the clearing to federal environment minister Greg Hunt ‘for his urgent intervention’.

Greens’ state candidate for Tweed, Andrea Vickers, said the ’10/50 laws’ had ‘seen at least one other property owner at Fingal Head seek approval from the federal minister to clear rainforest trees on their land’.

‘The clearing of this incredibly rare rainforest is only a small taste of what could happen in Tweed due to the ill-thought-out 10/50 bushfire laws,’ Ms Vickers told Echonetdaily.

‘Different types of vegetation have different levels of bushfire risk, rainforest doesn’t burn like blue gum.

‘In the case of Fingal, it’s an obviously inappropriate use of the provision.

‘Leafy areas in Sydney like Pittwater and Kuringai have been devastated by these laws, and we’re facing the same risk here if people can drop any tree near their house for any reason and use 10/50 as a pretext.

‘We do need trees in residential areas. As well as being attractive they actually cool those areas down, which is important in Tweed for example to look after our many older residents.’

The new law allows landowners in certain zones to remove trees within 10 metres from their homes or undergrowth within 50 metres without council approval.

Ms Vickers said the Greens have called for a moratorium on the laws until they’re revised. (The state government is currently reviewing the laws as a result of widespread pressure from councils around the state.)

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’.

‘Tweed 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’s EPBC (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act) Act,’ Dr Shoebridge said.

‘The loss of critically endangered littoral rainforest on this single site alone is reason enough to halt the operation of the code across NSW,’ he said.

The Greens’ Upper House candidate Dawn Walker said, the Tweed had one of the most important biodiverse environments in Australia ‘which makes it such a precious place to live, but unless we act to protect that environment we will lose it’.

‘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 for Fingal’s critically endangered littoral rainforest,’ Ms Walker, who lives at Fingal Head, said.

Previous story: https://www.echo.net.au/2014/08/fingal-head-locals-outraged-rare-tree-massacre/

 Before and after photos of the critically endangered rainforest cleared at Fingal Head under 10/50 bushfire laws.

Above: the critically endangered rainforest at Fingal Head before it was cleared under the contentious ’10/50′ bushfire laws (result below).

Before and after photos of the critically endangered rainforest cleared at Fingal Head under 10/50 bushfire laws.

Greens candidate for Tweed Andrea Vickers and Greens MP David Shoebridge at the Fingal Head tree-clearing site.
Greens candidate for Tweed Andrea Vickers and Greens MP David Shoebridge at the Fingal Head tree-clearing site.


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