Rural landowners call NSW “bushfire minister” not to put lives in danger

NSW rural landowners are calling Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott to honour his promise to allow them to clear up land around their property’s fence line to reduce bushfire risk as bushfire season is just around the corner.

Minister David Elliott announced back in October 2020 that the Rural Fires Act 1997 would be amended to allow rural landowners to clear up to 25 metres on their property from the boundary without onerous approvals.

Research shows houses close to bushland are more effectively protected by clearing trees and shrubs within approximately 40m of the home.

Now the rural landowners accuse the minister of not honouring his promise and putting their lives in danger.

According to them, they can’t legally commence the hazard reduction as the confusing situation created by the NSW government and minister’s messages has left them in “you are able to” but “penalties apply” dilemma.

Martin and Marion Tebbutt, who allowed their names to be published, say they live on our 100 acre fire prone property in Bilpin that adjoins two NSW national parks.

“We would like to point out that in relation to bushfires the NSW government and its agencies do not necessarily tell the full story”.

“The RFS volunteers are terrific and we do not criticise them in any way, they deserve tremendous praise but unfortunately the RFS administration and the Bushfire Minister are not always spinning the full story. We believe that, as landowners, we are actually being obstructed and prevented from helping ourselves prepare”.

They sent two letters to the minister one in February and one in July, reminding his promise about hazard reduction, but have yet to receive any response.

Martin says their letter gives a very brief insight into the dangerous situation that bureaucracy is upholding.

The content of their letter is below:

Dear Mr Elliott,

You have not honoured your undertaking of 7 October 2020 when you promised that you would “ensure that rural landowners are able to clear up to 25 metres of vegetation on their property without facing time consuming approvals”. You have however amazingly reiterated to us that “penalties may apply for illegal clearing.”

The RFS constantly informs us that “It is every landholder’s responsibility to manage the bushfire hazards on their property” and “The simple rule is – if its your property, its your hazard and your responsibility.” But we are legally obstructed from doing this and if we effectively reduce fuel loads, without Government consent, we face fines so large that we could lose our property.

The last fire catastrophe clearly illustrated that we need to be prepared by having less fuel available and the next fire season is approaching.

Will you please tell us when we can legally commence the hazard reduction you promised?