Pockets of rainforest are precious elements of the natural beauty and biodiversity of the north coast.
Yet the 10/50 clearing laws have resulted in massive clearing which has not only has decimated beautiful local bush – such as occurred last year at Fingal Head – but has created a major safety risk as people assume a false sense of security as a result of removing their trees.
According to the Greens, both the Coalition Government and Rural Fire Service ignored key safety advice when approving the controversial 10/50 tree clearing laws.
Greens MP and Emergency Services spokesperson David Shoebridge said the advice contained critical analysis of the equivalent 10/30 code from Victoria on which it was based.
Mr Shoebridge said documents obtained by Freedom of Information reveal that in October 2013 the NSW Rural Fire Service received warning that the tree clearing code is likely to deliver a misleading safety message to the community:
“A false sense of security is likely to be generated if people feel that 30 metres of clearing will secure their safety from bushfire in all cases. There are a suite of protection measures that need to be considered in order for a resident to address bushfire risk,’ the documents said.
Mr Shoebridge said critical safety advice was also given about the safety risk from wood chips and vegetation debris not properly removed as a result of unregulated tree removal:
“The clearing of vegetation without considering how the resultant debris will be managed is likely to result in a greater bushfire hazard if left in-situ,’ the advice said.
Mr Shoebridge said the code has been in operation for almost a year and seen thousands of trees cleared across the state in both urban and regional NSW.
‘As the clearing has continued there have been increasing reports of debris and woodchips dumped in public places, suburban streets, bushfire asset protection zones and underneath power lines,’ he said.
Mr Shoebridge said his office was constantly being alerted to discarded piles of woodchips and debris from trees that had been cut down under this environmentally destructive code.”
‘Not only are we seeing the loss of beautiful and mature trees and wildlife across the north coast, piles of flammable woodchips are being left behind in unsafe places as waste,’ he said.
‘The big sell for these laws was bushfire protection yet we now know that the government ignored key safety advice that these changes make communities less safe.
‘In ignoring the advice of senior RFS officers the government has put lives and communities at risk all to push through a bloody minded one-size-fits-all approach to tree clearing.
‘Bushfire risk needs to be addressed through evidence-based policy, with local controls and finely tuned hazard reduction strategies that address specific local conditions.
‘The north coast has been bearing the brunt of these tree clearing laws with the buzz of chainsaws and wood chippers hardly stopping since the code came into effect.”
‘When opposing this legislation in Parliament the Greens stated ‘it will give landowners and occupiers a false sense of security that may ultimately put them at risk of bushfire.’ We now know this was the exact advice the government had been given by its own experts, advice they ignored.
‘The 10/50 code is not only an environmental disaster, it is a serious safety risk for communities across the state. It doesn’t need to be reviewed, it needs to be scrapped.’