Labor calls for suspension of 10/50

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The NSW Opposition is calling for a suspension of the Government’s controversial 10/50 rules until a review into the new land clearing code is complete – with secret government department documents calling for a return to the previous system governing bushfire management.

The 10/50 vegetation clearing code allows landowners to clear trees within ten metres and vegetation within 50 metres of a home on their property without seeking approval.

Documents prepared by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) for the RFS review of the new code highlights flaws including that 10/50:

  • does not consider potential environmental impacts including threatened species
  • overrides biodiversity certification and strategic assessment approvals
  • poses soil erosion and land slippage risks, and
  • poses potential risks to Aboriginal and cultural heritage.

The previous system centred on the use of bushfire hazard reduction certificates issued by local councils and the Rural Fire Service (RFS), in accordance with existing environmental protections.

Shadow Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe said: “From the outset Labor flagged the potential unintended consequences of the 10/50 rule, and now the government’s own department is suggesting a return to the pre-10/50 bushfire management system.

“The OEH highlights a number of significant impacts that make it clear 10/50 must be suspended until the current review is complete.

“The OEH notes a range of negative impacts on the environment, biodiversity and Aboriginal and cultural heritage.

“The OEH also warns the code is being applied inconsistently and could lead to a false sense of security in legitimately bushfire-prone areas.

“Many communities across the state have seen their streets stripped bare by land owners rushing to improve the views of their properties, all the while holding the code and the self-assessed threat of ‘fire-damage’ as an excuse.

“Areas legitimately exposed to the threat of bushfires, like the Blue Mountains, are sounding the alarm about the use of 10/50 in their area.

“This bushfire-prone area has already identified that critical habitat is being lost with no evidence of a reduction in bushfire risk. 

“10/50 was not intended to be used for landholders to improve their views. Nor was it intended to be used to clear critical habitat for threatened species or exacerbate erosion and land slippage.

“NSW must have a bushfire management system that addresses the legitimate threat of bushfires, and also maintains our current standard of environmental protection. Pressing the pause button on 10/50 until the current review is complete will help us get it right.”