Documents from a recent GIPA to the Rural Fire Service on the 10/50 tree clearing code show that the Office of Environment and Heritage and the Department of Planning and Infrastructure failed to make any submissions to the RFS’ draft 10/50 code tree clearing code. That code overrides all state legislation protecting threatened species, endangered ecological communities, tree protection orders and even protections for heritage listed trees.
In document 16 the “Summary of Submissions”, a document produced by the Rural Fire Service to consider submissions received as part of the consultation process, it is noted that “No submissions were received from NPWS/OEH or Fire and Rescue NSW”.
This lack of submissions is despite the fact that the Office of Environment and Heritage bears responsibility for the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, the Native Vegetation Act 2003 and the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 the operation of which are substantially affected by the application of the code.
In document 18 dated 27 August 2014 which considers “Local Council and Shire Issues Resolution” item 7.2 regarding type of vegetation that can’t be cleared, it is noted that “threatened flora, fauna and ecological communities should be considered and included in the online tool” notes that “This is a Bill issue. OEH chose not to address threatened species as these matters should not inhibit clearing around homes”.
Greens MP and Emergency Services spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“This is a clear abdication of responsibility by the Ministers responsible for protecting this State’s precious biodiversity and threatened species.
“The failure to protect threatened species is an ongoing threat to biodiversity across the state, and it is now clear that the Office of Environment and Heritage bears substantial responsibility for this.
“It is now clear that the Minister for the Environment failed to speak up on behalf of threatened species, endangered ecological communities or any aspect of the environment.
“That’s either incompetence or an admission of political irrelevance in a far-right coalition cabinet.
“The failure of any of the State government’s environmental protection agencies to engage with the 10/50 code has let the chainsaws run free, and they must be held accountable,” Mr Shoebridge said.