The original 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Entitlement rules were introduced on 1 August 2014 to provide people living near bushland with the ability to increase their level of protection against bush fires, following concerns raised by homeowners after devastating blazes destroyed more than 200 homes last year. The entitlement allowed property owners living within 350 metres of Category 1 and Category 2 Bush Fire Prone Land to remove trees within 10 metres of their home, as well as vegetation within 50 metres, without having to obtain state or local approval. The distance of 35o metres was chosen because it was found that 99% of homes destroyed by bush fires were located within 350 metres of bushland.
The policy did not allow trees to be removed if other restrictions applied, such as land management agreements under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, the Threatened Species Conservation Act or the Native Vegetation Act.
Since the introduction of the rule, a number of councils and community groups raised concerns regarding the 350 metre rule and the manner in which it could apply, particularly on small parcels of land. The new rules saw an unprecedented amount of tree removal which raised concerns that areas were being denuded of trees in order to improve views.
Changes to the entitlement rules were announced on 30 September 2014 by the NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner, to take effect on 1 October 2014. The changes are:
- The 10/50 entitlement area for Category 2 Bush Fire Prone Land is now 150 metres, reduced from 350 metres
- Councils will have the ability to reclassify smaller parcels of vegetation from Category 1 to Category 2 therefore reducing the entitlement area.
(Category 2 covers areas where the vegetation poses a reduced fire risk.)
Residents can find out if their property is in a 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Entitlement Area using the NSW RFS’s online tool: http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/plan-and-prepare/1050-vegetation-clearing/tool . In addition, you need to check that the species of tree you are proposing to remove is not a threatened species, or otherwise covered by the Native Vegetation Act.