NSW's farmers will now have clearer guidelines on how to mitigate bushfire risks thanks to the state government.
Announced last week, changes to the Rural Fires Act 1997 will give the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) new powers to direct hazard reduction burns, while landholders will be able to clear up to 25 metres on their property from the boundary without onerous approvals.
A Code will be developed surrounding issues such as clearing in endangered and threatened species habitat as well as clearing for non-bushfire risk mitigation purposes.
State Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said the RFS' new powers will help in "ensuring public lands are treated the same way as private land holders."
"A new statutory obligation will be created requiring all complaints about hazard reduction activities, including those relating to public authorities, to be forwarded to the NSW RFS Commissioner for assessment and action."
The NSW RFS Commissioner will have the power to issue Bushfire Hazard Reduction Notices to public authorities in circumstances where vegetation should be cleared to protect lives or property.
Mr Elliott added that if mitigation works are not undertaken in a timely manner, the NSW RFS can undertake such works and send the land manager the bill.
"The new laws are based on the expert operational advice of the NSW RFS, and will ensure that rural landowners are able to clear up to 25 metres of vegetation on their property without facing time consuming approvals," Mr Elliott said.
"There will be stiff fines for people that leave their communities vulnerable to bushfires, with penalties set to be doubled for corporations and public landowners that fail to meet their obligations. If public authorities fail to clear lands, the NSW RFS will step in.
"This is not only the most landowner friendly legislation, but it is putting public safety above all else."
NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Rob Rogers welcomed the additional powers.
"These measures will empower community members to better protect their homes and property with as little bureaucracy as possible," Commissioner Rogers said.
"The changes to the legislation reflect the clear recommendations from the NSW bushfire inquiry, and will help the NSW RFS in its role to manage and better protect communities across the state from bushfires."
New provisions will allow the NSW RFS to appoint and direct 'industry' brigades, and to allow for the appointment of a representative of Aboriginal Land Councils on the state's peak bushfire co-ordinating committee.
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