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Action taken on illegal 10/50 clearing

Posted Thursday 02 April 2015

Mosman Council has successfully prosecuted or fined four people who breached the 10/50 vegetation clearing code, resulting in more than $28,000 worth of fines and legal costs.

In the most recent case, a male contractor was convicted and fined $10,000 plus Council’s court costs of $950 after pleading guilty in Downing Centre Local Court. The female resident in the case was not prosecuted because she was relying on advice from the arborist and received a Penalty Infringement Notice of $1500.

Another male resident was fined just under $5000 with a recorded conviction, while the prosecution of the contractor is still pending. Late last year another contractor was convicted with fines and legal costs of $11,000.

Mosman Council is aware of the removal of 134 large canopy trees and about 100 more small-to-medium sized trees and in all but two cases bushfire threat was not mentioned as a reason for removal.

Interim changes to the 10/50 Code made last year resulted in the residential entitlement area being significantly reduced. The entitlement area, in which trees can be cleared within 10m of a home without seeking approval, has been reduced from 350m to 100m for Category One bushfire-prone land and from 150m to 30m for Category Two vegetation.

Residents clearly share Mosman Council’s concerns as for every tree cut down through 10/50 we would typically receive at least five complaint calls and Council is concerned that despite interim changes the underlying flaws in the 10/50 Rule remain.

The changes mean 10 per cent or about 680 residential lots in Mosman are now included in the entitlement area, down from an original 57 per cent or 3,888 lots and followed Mosman Council’s submission to the NSW Rural Fire Service’s review of the scheme.

The 10/50 vegetation clearing law is enforced by councils under a control policy (Mosman Council’s DCP/LEP) which is empowered under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. If any illegal activity takes place council can ask the courts to prosecute breaches of the EPA Act.