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Trees lose out in South Gippsland as homes come first


VALUING ENVIRONMENT: Jamie Sutherland of Bass Coast Shire Council with a tree in poor health at Inverloch. Whether or not it was poisoned or affected by natural causes is uncertain.

Brad Lester

 

THE rate of clearing of native vegetation in towns in South Gippsland has conservationists worried about the future of the region’s pristine environment.

Green areas of Inverloch in particular are being swallowed by houses at such a rate that even authorities are anxious.

“Certainly the amount of native vegetation that is being cleared is a concern,” South Gippsland Conservation Society vice-president Dave Sutton said.

“We do need to keep as much as we can.”

Bass Coast Shire Council’s Donna Taylor said council was concerned by the amount of native vegetation being cleared within Inverloch and other coastal townships under the 10/30m bushfire safety rule.

This allowed people to clear any vegetation within 10m of a house built before September 2009 and all vegetation except trees within 30m of those houses, to be removed without a planning permit.

“Vegetation is an important part of the character of our coastal townships,” Ms Taylor said.

“Where possible, council seeks to ensure that where vegetation is lost as a result of a development, replacement trees are planted. However, this is not possible in all cases.

“As permits are not required for removal of vegetation under the 10/30 rule, we have no way to record the amount cleared.”

Mr Sutton feels too much bush is being lost in Inverloch to housing, despite people moving there for the town’s leafy streets and coastal vegetation as well as the sea.

“We do not like it but it’s not illegal,” he said.

“The 10/30 rule is causing unnecessary clearing of bush quite often, in particular on small blocks.

“The problem is there is not a lot of it left.”

Mr Sutton urged local councils to take heed of a proposal in Melbourne where home builders may be required to preserve larger trees as they provide shade in summer and conserve heat during winter.

“This is something we would like to see in South Gippsland because we are losing a lot of trees to larger houses or dual occupancies,” he said.

While much new development in Inverloch is happening on greenfield sites, Mr Sutton felt in-fill development was claiming excessive native vegetation.

In South Gippsland Shire, native vegetation is protected in all townships.

“It is important to maintain an appropriate balance between the protection of native vegetation and bushfire protection,” a council spokesperson said.

“In the last 12 months there have been less than 10 reports of illegal clearing and three penalty infringement notices have been issued.”  

 

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=30120

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