Knox’s leafy image in doubt due to clearing laws

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VEGETATION-clearing laws to prevent bushfires could cause Knox’s biodiversity and ‘green’ image to suffer, say environment groups and Knox Council.

New state planning regulations about what trees and shrubs can be cleared around homes apply to about 1800 homes in Knox, particularly properties in The Basin, Upper Ferntree Gully, Ferntree Gully, Boronia, Sassafras, Lysterfield and Rowville.

Known as the 10/50 rule, it means that residents do not need a planning permit to clear any vegetation within 10 metres of a building and any vegetation except trees within 50 metres.

But a report on the planning scheme changes discussed by the council last week stated the rule may result in the extinction of indigenous species and have a long-term impact on Knox’s “green and leafy” image.

Knox Environment Society president Darren Wallace said he accepted that vegetation needed to be cleared to reduce bushfire risk but the previous 10/30 rule was sufficient.

“We believe some people will make use of the rule not necessarily because of fire protection but because they don’t want native vegetation. This is the terrible irony – everyone says they live in Knox because they like the green areas and they like trees, but they want the trees in someone else’s backyard.”

Last week, the council voted to request a priority review of how the bushfire management overlay applied to Knox.

Cr Mick Van de Vreede said the 50 metres that could be cleared potentially contained the most biodiversity.

“We have a role to play to protect biodiversity levels. There are a plethora of weed issues on private and public land, a lot of which have come about through clearing of natural vegetation and then not managing it properly.”

The review will be carried out in association with the Country Fire Authority and the state government in the next few months.