Resort fear sparking unrest
LEGISLATION allowing owners to protect their properties against bushfire has come under local scrutiny this week, with Arrawarra Beach Holiday Park residents up in arms following the felling of 40 trees on Monday.
While the park's owner, Astoria Group, is legally allowed to clear the area under the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Entitlement, residents fear there are plans to develop the property.
The 10/50 entitlement, introduced on August 1, following public consultation, was created after more than 200 homes were destroyed by devastating fires last year. It affords owners the right to protect their properties against bushfires.
Brett Loughlin, of the NSW Rural Fire Service, said owners could complete an assessment on the fire service website.
"If they're in a 10/50 area, they get the green tick," he said, which means they can go ahead with the clearing without state or local approval.
Residents of the caravan park, however, believe the clearing is a move towards development of the park.
Peter Ritchard, a residents' committee member and 25-year long-term resident, said the residents were not informed about the clearing.
"We feel this could be the start of a move to phase out the long-term residents," he said.
"We have our caravans on-site permanently and are allowed to occupy the site 26 weeks of the year."
Mr Ritchard, who is based in Sydney, said the residents loved the caravan park as it wasn't overdeveloped.
"There's a big concern there may be a move to turn the park into a resort," he said.
He said residents had been told some land cleared by the tree felling would be used to build a second access to the southern end of the park.
Astoria Group was contacted for comment but a representative was unavailable before this story went to print.
Historically, 99% of homes destroyed by bushfires were found to be located within 350m of bushland. The 10/50 legislation initially allowed property owners living within 350m of Category 1 and Category 2 Bush Fire Prone Land to remove trees within 10m of their home, as well as vegetation within 50m.
Amendments in September reduced the entitlement area to 150m, with councils given the ability to reclassify smaller parcels of vegetation from Category 1 and Category 2, therefore reducing the entitlement area.
Further amendments are afoot. A formal review of the scheme started on October 1 to allow communities across NSW the opportunity to provide comment and feedback. Further details are available on http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au