Innes presses to Switch off Biodiversity to allow bushfire rebuilds

Eurobodalla Councillor Liz Innes is calling on the NSW Government to remove the biodiversity constraints causing unnecessary delays, cost and stress on those rebuilding after the Black Summer bushfires.

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

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

"In the Eurobodalla, up to 277 property owners will need to undertake expensive assessments under the Biodiversity Conservation Act before they can rebuild, the only way to achieve the clearing required to comply with current bushfire management standards." On 25 August 2017 the land management biodiversity conservation reforms commenced. This introduced some significant changes to the way the community protects biodiversity, how the State Government regulates a range of development activities on land and how the impacts of these activities on the natural environment are managed. Clr Innes said many homes lost in the bushfires were constructed before current biodiversity and bushfire management standards were introduced.

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

“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.” The purpose of the Biodiversity Conservation Act is to maintain a healthy, productive and resilient environment for the greatest well-being of the community, now and into the future, consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development. A counter argument to the request to waiving of conditions in the Act is that the State Government requires adherence to legislation to ensure homeowners to rebuild in a way that’s safer and more resilient, but also compliant. "The task of assessment is very straight forward with the requirement of a Biodiversity Values Map & Threshold Tool (BMAT) report  if clearing native vegetation (including shrubs and groundcover) as part of the DA" a local planning specialist told The Beagle.

Councillor Innes, however, says turning off the biodiversity constraints will save impacted residents significant time and tens of thousands of dollars. 

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

“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.

The councillor opined “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.”

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