The Coalition Government and Rural Fire Service ignored key safety advice when developing the controversial 10/50 tree clearing laws. The advice contained critical analysis of the equivalent 10/30 code from Victoria detailing how the laws gave communities a false sense of security and the piles of woodchips left after tree clearing produced their own serious fire risk.
As reported by the Sun Herald, the NSW fire service was warned 10/50 bushfire laws could lead to more danger.
Documents obtained by way of a GIPA (Freedom of Information application) reveal that in October 2013 the NSW Rural Fire Service circulated a detailed warning that the Victorian equivalent tree clearing code gave communities:
“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.”
Critical safety advice was 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 email was sent from one senior RFS employee, to another, in October 2013, stating that the author wrote the analysis (above) that was attached.
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.
Greens MP and Emergency Services Spokesperson David Shoebridge 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 this advice 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.
“This is the exact system that code 10/50 undermines with its sweeping state-wide application.
“When opposing this legislation in Parliament the Greens said ‘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.
“Across the state beautiful mature trees being turned into piles of woodchips that are then left lying around homes, under power lines and creating real and present bush fire risks.
“These laws are making communities less safe while destroying the character and amenity of suburbs, they must be repealed.
“The 10/50 code is not only an environmental disaster, it is a serious safety risk for communities across the state.
“This damaging law doesn’t need to be reviewed, it needs to be scrapped,” Mr Shoebridge said
Have a look at Ku-ring-gai Council’s presentation on misconceptions about trees as fire hazards.