Clearing confusion but concerns remain

Clearing confusion but concerns remain

Opinion
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The Planning Amendment Regulation provides more certainty for landholders looking to clear land for fire management purposes.

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On December 6, the Planning (Spit Master Plan and Other Matters) Amendment Regulation 2019 started, providing much-needed clarification to the regime around approvals for vegetation clearing in Queensland. The clarification ensures that exceptions for clearing land for fire management purposes is consistent with the definition of 'essential management' in the current Planning Regulation.

These new amendments by the Queensland government make it clear that operational work for native vegetation clearing is acceptable development and does not need a development permit in certain circumstances. Particularly, where the clearing is necessary for establishing or maintaining a firebreak to protect infrastructure (other than a fence, road or vehicle track) where the maximum width of the firebreak is equal to 1.5 times the height of the tallest vegetation next to the infrastructure, or 20 metres, whichever is the greatest. Vegetation may also be cleared when necessary for establishing a fire management line where the maximum width of the clearing for the fire management line is 10 metres.

Critically, these amendments clarify that these types of operational works cannot be made assessable development by a local government planning scheme, to provide more certainty for landholders looking to clear land for fire management purposes.

Coinciding with the start of this new regulation, the government department responsible for planning released new guidance material for stakeholders to integrate planning and mitigation measures during bushfire events including water supply, emergency access including default separation distances between landholders' lots and 'hazardous vegetation'. The maps contained in the material also identify designated bushfire prone areas and rates their intensity.

The Queensland government has clearly expressed its interest in addressing and mitigating the risks associated with natural hazards including the projected impacts of climate change to protect people and property. However, the Queensland Farmers' Federation queries if the amendments to the planning regulation and the guidance material are adequate to mitigate those risks identified in our landscape? Farmers need more than just firebreaks to manage these risks including discussions around minimising hazardous materials (including vegetation), to landscaping with naturally fire-retardant plants, through to managing the contribution of climate change.

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