“A critically endangered rainforest on NSW’s north coast is in danger of being “decimated piece by piece” after the Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt refused to investigate complaints it is being cleared without approval under the controversial new 10/50 bushfire regulations.

The Fingal Head littoral rainforest is one of the last pockets of rainforest in the Tweed and the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) principal solicitor Susan Higginson wrote to the minister asking for urgent remediation orders after an independent ecological report identified the clearing of the area as likely having a significant impact putting it at serious risk of extinction. Ms Higginson argued it should be protected under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act.

But a spokeswoman for the minister said the latest information had not changed the Department’s view that the clearing was not likely to have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance.

The federal government’s position has outraged locals and Greens MP David Shoebridge, who have been battling to raise awareness of how the controversial bushfire laws are affecting the environment across the state. Another application to clear rainforest from the same strip at Fingal Head is before the minister for a decision.

“The rainforest will suffer the death of a thousands cuts,” Mr Shoebridge said. “It is effectively a death warrant. This fractured habitat is being decimated in a piecemeal way. It is allowed to be destroyed piece by piece.”

A littoral rainforest is a community of plants and animals that occurs close to the sea and is dominated by rainforest plants. The Tweed has 37km of coastline, from Fingal Head in the north to Wooyung in the south and the large continuous tracts of littoral rainforest that once graced the coastline have been reduced to small isolated pockets.

Kay Bolton, president of Fingal Inc, who is fighting to save the forest, said: “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.”

The 10/50 bushfire laws which came into effect in August led to the stripping of hundreds of trees across Sydney and the rest of the state for harbour views and development rather than reducing the risk of fire in bush-fire prone areas.

After a widespread public outcry, the Rural Fire Service agreed to review the laws and also to reduce the distance around homes that trees and shrubs can be cleared without approvals.

 It did not go far enough, according to some councils and residents who have called for a moratorium on the bushfire clearing until the issues like clearing protected areas can be resolved.”