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Calls for NSW Government to suspend biodiversity assessments for bushfire rebuilds

Sharon Kelley7 August 2020
Heavy equipment conducting clean-up on bushfire-affected property.

Eurobodalla Shire Council is calling for biodiversity assessments to be waived for homeowners who lost their homes in the Black Summer bushfires. Photo: File.

Eurobodalla Shire Council Mayor Liz Innes has called on the NSW Government to remove the biodiversity constraints which she says are causing unnecessary delays, costs and stress on people trying to rebuild after the Black Summer bushfires.

“For months now, councils in the southeast have been asking the NSW Government to switch off biodiversity requirements for bushfire-affected properties,” said Mayor Innes.

“Asking people to jump through hoops on blocks of land that are effectively cleared is absurd.”

Mayor Innes said many homes lost in the bushfires were built before current biodiversity and bushfire management standards were introduced.

Eurobodalla Shire Council Mayor Liz Innes.

Eurobodalla Shire Council Mayor Liz Innes. Photo: Supplied.

“All that these people want to do is re-establish what they’ve lost,” she said.

There may be as many as 277 bushfire-affected property owners who will need assessments under the Biodiversity Conservation Act in the Eurobodalla in order to comply with current bushfire management standards.

“Given their houses already existed in these locations, surely the NSW Government can amend the legislation to allow homeowners to rebuild in a way that’s safer and more resilient, but also compliant,” said Mayor Innes.

She added that turning off the biodiversity constraints will save impacted residents significant time and tens of thousands of dollars.

“Nine southeast NSW councils, including Eurobodalla, have been advocating since January for the biodiversity legislation to be switched off for our bushfire-affected communities,” said Mayor Innes.

“While we continue to hear positive noises from the NSW Government, we’re yet to see any changes that will fix the problem.

“I’m calling on the state government to sort it out. Stop playing bureaucratic games with people who’ve already been through enough.

“Helping these people will have no negative impact on our environment, but it will have a massive positive impact on those in our communities trying to recover from the fires.”

What's Your Opinion?

3 Responses to Calls for NSW Government to suspend biodiversity assessments for bushfire rebuilds

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Deborah Stevenson Deborah Stevenson 11:07 pm 08 Aug 20

Lets be accurate and not distort the facts, the reason that the people who have lost their homes need to go through a biodiversity assessment is because they have to clear additional asset protection zones around their new dwellings to make them bushfire compliant and the vegetation that will be impacted is known to be either endangered or it is habitat for threatened species. The requirement to clear additional land is dictated by the Rural Fires Act and the assessment of the impacts on biodiversity of this extra clearing is required under the Biodiversity Conservation Act. The reason that these people need to undertake this additional clearing is because their land is recognised by the Rural Fire Service as having a high or extreme risk of bushfire. The alternative to undertaking the extra clearing would be to ‘build back better’. This would mean meeting a higher level of bushfire protection (BAL rating) in the construction of the new dwelling. Our mayor should be asking for the NSW government to provide financial support so that these people can ‘build back better’ instead of relying on more clearing and turning off the only legislation that protects our endangered species. What has happened to all that bushfire money that was donated or allocated to the bushfire recovery? Could this be used to assist these people to meet higher bushfire safety standards when they rebuild? In order to avoid being hypocritical in the extreme, our mayor should not be talking about helping bushfire impacted residents, while at the same time advocating for further development of land that has an extreme or high bushfire risk, which will put future residents at risk of losing their property, or potentially their lives. This is exactly what she did in supporting the Rural Lands Strategy and the recent amendments to the Eurobodalla Local Environment Plan.

Allan Rees Allan Rees 10:00 am 08 Aug 20

How does this work? They take off environmental protections but there’s “no negative effect on our environment”? The NSW Government could help people with these assessments and help with building better bushfire resistant homes. After the fires have devastated our forests and wildlife, we should be protecting what’s left.

Cr Innes big effort as mayor was to get a rural zoning plan that reduces environmental protection. She also wanted to allow subdivisions in places of high bushfire danger.

    Philip Creagh Philip Creagh 1:45 pm 08 Aug 20

    I cannot agree with your suggestions above Allan. The lifting of these constraints are surely just for replacing houses burnt in the current fires. I have heard no suggestion it is for other situations?

    For the NSW and Commonwealth bushfire enquiries I strongly suggested that dwellings on 2hectares have a large buffer of low combustible shrubs and trees, preferably deciduous. In suburbia if owners wish to remove eucalyptus species from their property, then that should be permissible. Both from a safety (falling over, dropping branches) and a fire mitigation point of view.

    Further I believe that all highways should have a minimum of 50metres of cleared verge on either side of the road and similarly on major local roads. Having driven extensively in Canada and the USA I have seen how this has worked very well, wildlife interactions are much easier to avoid. Similarly electrical easements should have a 150metre clearance. The 2018 fires in Tharwa would have been avoided if this simple mitigation step was followed.

    Building better bushfire resistant homes produces a bunker design, whereas controlling the surrounds and mitigating threats with appropriate on building mitigation would be far more sensible and less costly.

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