1 May 2020

Bega Valley Shire Council opens public consultation on burning off in open areas

| Sharon Kelley
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Pile of tree branches burning off in open park.

Bega Valley Shire Council is calling for residents to have their say on burning off in local areas. Photo: Supplied.

Bega Valley Shire Council is calling for comments and suggestions on a draft policy that will attempt to streamline the approval process for burning dry vegetation, also known as pile burning.

The draft of the Burning off in Open Areas Policy is open for public feedback until 31 May, 2020 on the Bega Valley Shire Council website. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the draft policy will not be on display in public libraries or at the council’s offices during the exhibition period.

Dr Alice Howe, Bega Valley Shire Council’s community, environment and planning director, said council regulates pile burning of vegetation and wants to simplify the approval process for landowners within appropriate hazard reduction periods.

“We’re keen to support landowners who want to proactively manage bushfire risk by making it more straightforward for them to pile burn vegetation,” said Dr Howe.

The draft policy proposes landowners will not need to apply to council for approval to undertake pile burning for properties in excess of 3000 square metres in certain zones. Approval would be deemed under certain circumstances where the policy is followed.

Dr Howe said landowners would still be required to notify the relevant fire authority, usually the NSW Rural Fire Service, and neighbours, but approval from the council would not be needed.

Approval from the NSW Rural Fire Service will still be required for hazard reduction burning activities, including burning off of vegetation across an area of land rather than in a pile.

The draft policy is designed to protect the environment; the health and amenity of people in the Bega Valley Shire; ensure consistency and fairness in the way council regards burning off; and ensure compliance with clear-air legislation.

Open burning is regulated across NSW by the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2010. The intention of this legislation is to manage air pollution issues associated with burning to protect local and regional air quality, local amenity, and public health.

The council wants to ensure the policy increases public awareness of individual obligations under the Regulation and ensures the council’s requirements for burning off are readily accessible and understandable to the public.

Residents are encouraged to share their ideas by emailing the Bega Valley Shire Council or making a contribution to the Have your Say page on the council’s website.

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