Item 9 NOM18/20 Protecting Vegetation on Rural Land........................................................... 1
Notice of Motion No. NOM18/20
Date of Meeting: 9/12/2020
9 PROTECTING VEGETATION ON RURAL LAND
THAT Hornsby Council write to Matt Kean, Minister for Energy and Environment and Rob Stokes, Minister for Planning, seeking an exemption for lots of twelve hectares or less from the Rural Boundary Clearing Code.
Note from Councillor
The State Government has recently made amendments to the Rural Fires Act 1997 which could potentially lead to a dramatic escalation in land clearing in Hornsby Shire. The Bushfires Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 passed 20 November 2020 allows landowners to clear vegetation within 25 metres of their property boundary in rural zoned areas. Clearing is permissible under the new provisions even if a licence, approval or consent under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 or the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 would ordinarily be required.
There was no recommendation in the NSW Bushfire Inquiry’s Report to permit or encourage boundary clearing, and no recommendation for expanded clearing on private property.
The new provisions will allow large tracts of bushland to be cleared around semi-rural properties backing nature reserves and national parks without proper regulation or oversight. It will also allow the clear-felling of smaller blocks, many that are only 40 metres wide.
The Rural Boundary Clearing Code should exempt land with lot sizes of twelve hectares or less in order to give expression to the principles set out in Hornsby’s Local Strategic Planning Statement to protect and enhance significant environmental values in Hornsby’s rural areas and encourage sustainable land management practices that prevent, stabilise and reverse environmental degradation.
An exemption would also align with the:
· Greater Sydney Commission’s North District Plan’s Action 66: ‘Protect and enhance biodiversity by (a) supporting landscape-scale biodiversity conservation and the restoration of bushland corridors’.
· Premiers promise – “Increase the tree canopy and green cover across Greater Sydney by planting 1 million trees by 2022.” (https://www.nsw.gov.au/premiers-priorities/greening-our-city)
· Greater Sydney Commission – “A target has been set to increase tree canopy cover to 40 per cent, up from the current 23 per cent”. (https://www.greater.sydney/metropolis-of-three-cities/sustainability/city-its-landscape/urban-tree-canopy-cover-increased)
At a state level, tree loss across New South Wales has rapidly accelerated since the NSW government introduced the Biodiversity Conservation Act which relaxed clearing laws in August 2017. Land cleared has risen nearly 60%.
The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) has reported that 60,800 hectares of woody vegetation was cleared in 2018, up from 58,000 hectares the previous year. An average of 38,800 hectares was cleared each year between 2009 and 2017.
The Department has labelled 73% of this clearing as ‘unexplained’.
The amount of agricultural clearing in the state is now more than double the 2009-17 average of 12,300 ha.
At a national level, more than a million hectares of threatened species’ habitat was cleared for agriculture 2004-2017 in New South Wales and Queensland.
The NSW Environment Minister and Member for Hornsby, Matt Kean, has expressed concern over the numbers and reiterated the need for habitat protection following the bushfires to protect habitat for native species, especially koalas.
Rural areas of Hornsby Shire still have large tracts of bushland, including 26 plant species and 42 animal species listed as threatened. The Shire also contains twelve Threatened Ecological Communities. They provide a buffer zone around urban areas and are a haven for wildlife, including koalas.
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File Reference: F2009/00836