Australia — HOMEOWNERS in Victoria’s most bushfire-prone areas will from today be able to clear all vegetation except trees up to 50 metres from their house without a permit, under laws brought in by Planning Minister Matthew Guy.
Before now, householders had been able to clear shrubs and vegetation within 30 metres of their house.
Under the new ”10/50” rule, to be passed in state parliament today, they can legally clear any tree or bush within 10 metres of their home, and bushes or native vegetation within 50 metres.
Advertisement: Story continues below Mr Guy also said new homes would be better fire-proofed as a result of the new laws that give councils far stronger controls to reject houses and other proposals they believe will not meet stringent requirements.
”The new planning provisions give priority to the protection of human life,” Mr Guy said.
The opposition said the changes, to clearing in particular, were months later than expected, and had put people living in areas of high bushfire risk in greater danger.
The Greens said the new laws could result in overly aggressive clearing, and could lead to some residents clearing with false motives.
The new rules, the government’s response to the 2009 Victoria Bushfires Royal Commission, will result in every planning scheme in the state being changed to better consider the possibility of bushfires when a new house is being built.
Housing groups last night voiced concerns that the new laws rated too much of Victoria as high risk, and would bump up building costs.
Housing Industry Association spokeswoman Kristin Brookfield said ”arbitrary assessment” of bushfire risks would increase costs for roofing, guttering, and seals around doors and windows.
Mr Guy also announced a time extension on planning permit exemptions for people living in temporary housing in bushfire-affected communities. Extended until early 2013, they would give time to resolve long-term building plans, he said.
■ Travellers in country Victoria are among those most vulnerable to the growing threat of grass fires this summer.
Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said a warm August followed by heavy rain had created the right conditions for grass growth and fires.
”People get caught in the open or out on roads in grass fires,” he said.
Grass fires are thought to pose the greatest risk in central and north-western Victoria. They can travel up to three times faster than a forest fire.
The Country Fire Authority says that complacency over bushfires has become worrying.