The devastation of Sydney’s tree canopy lumbers on with hundreds of trees being felled every month because of flawed State laws. The tree clearing is supposed to mitigate bushfire risk but is usually more about not wanting leaf litter mess, misplaced fear, and creating views. The property above removed 10 trees and adjoining properties removed a further 15 trees.
Stop the Chop, is a community organisation trying to alter these ‘10/50 Code‘ clearing laws which allow non-assessed removal of any tree closer than 10 metres to a home in designated ‘bushfire risk’ zones. Since the new clearing laws came into effect, it’s estimated that over a 1,000 trees, many of them mature eucalypts, have been chopped down just in the North Shore area of Sydney alone.
The problem is that the bushfire risk in many of these areas is negligible. The maps on which the Rural Fire Service base the 10/50 Code start with Bushfire Prone Land Mapping Data (where stringent clearing and building code practices already apply) and then add, in many areas, an extra 350 metre buffer zone around that. However this ‘one size fits all’ approach to clearing ignores the realities of properties on south or east facing slopes and in many valleys which haven’t seen a bushfire anywhere near them in over 50 years.
It also ignores the fact that tree cover, especially those which include leafy green exotic trees, can slow down bushfire spread and protect homes from ember attack. When you add the other documented benefits of trees like cooling shade, oxygen production, carbon sequestration, animal and bird habitat, wind mitigation, improved mental health, lower crime rates and visual beauty, every tree in our community is invaluable.
During the review period of the 10/50 Code clearing laws (which closed in November 2014), the State Government received 3,579 submissions. 97% of the submissions did not support the 10/50 Code, with 81% calling for a moratorium, 5% that the Code be scrapped and a further 9% stating other forms of ‘non-support’.
65% of those not supporting the code declared reasons that were categorised as “concern that owners will clear for purposes other than bushfire risk“.
The current LNP NSW State Government shows no sign of making further changes to the 10/50 Code. No doubt developers are pretty pleased about that.
I say if you care about preserving tree cover in NSW, think about how you will vote in the upcoming state election on 28 March 2015.