Illawarra trees in bushfire zone facing axe

File image.

File image.

It is open season on trees in large sections of the Illawarra, as new vegetation clearing rules allow landowners to cut down anything growing near their houses.

The new rules, which came in at the start of August, make it easier for property owners in bushfire-prone areas to clear trees and reduce the risk of flames reaching their houses.

The clearing entitlement zone extends 350 metres from the boundary of "bushfire-prone land" as determined by each local council. Beachside suburbs from Stanwell Park to Wombarra, as well as Primbee and Windang, are covered.

Almost all of Helensburgh and all of Otford, and much of Mangerton, Mount Pleasant, East Corrimal, Figtree and Farmborough Heights, are also included.

In the Kiama municipality, large areas around Gerroa, Werri Beach and Jamberoo are in the zone. In Shellharbour, most of Shell Cove, Croom and Dunmore are counted, as well as most residential land west of Albion Park.

Concerns have been raised in some Sydney council areas that the rules are being used by property owners to improve their water views.

Despite the policy being in place for a month, Wollongong City Council was not prepared to comment on Wednesday.

The council's environment and strategic planning manager, Renee Campbell, said the implications of the policy were still being considered and referred questions to the RFS.

Member for Kiama Gareth Ward said he was proud of the "fantastic" policy and the negatives from it being misused by a few were outweighed by the gains to bushfire protection.

The laws were passed months before the bushfire zones to be covered were made public but Mr Ward said this was an appropriate way to bring in the regime.

"I'm actually pleased that it was dealt with in an expeditious manner," he said.

Wollongong Greens councillor George Takacs said the laws may be counterproductive, as trees helped protect homes from ember attacks.

"In leafier suburbs, like Mangerton ... if some people move in and start removing trees, it's going to create division in those communities."

A spokesman for the Rural Fire Service said the policy would be reviewed in a year.

"[It] balances community safety with environmental concerns and acknowledges the need for a practical scheme to allow landowners to protect their properties from fire," he said.

"Local councils will maintain responsibility for monitoring tree and vegetation clearing in their local area to ensure it is carried out in accordance with the code. We look forward to working with local councils, community groups, stakeholders and homeowners during the review process."

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