…so proclaimed the media release from the Minister for Environment and Climate Change announcing the inclusion of Interim Measures for Bushfire Protection in the Victoria Planning Provisions (specified municipalities) until 31 August 2010.

Developed with the expectation that the bushfire conditions in summer 2009 / 2010 will be worse than those in summer 2008 / 2009, the purpose of Clause 52.43 is “to enable the removal, destruction or lopping of vegetation to reduce fuel load around buildings used for accommodation and on roadsides to assist with minimising risk to life and property from bushfire”.

Clause 52.43 exempts specified bushfire protection measures from any provision of a planning scheme or a planning permit (including any condition) that prohibits, requires a planning permit for or requires a particular approach to the removal, destruction or lopping of vegetation. The ’10 / 30 right’ of the media release refers to the exemption for the removal, destruction or lopping of any vegetation within 10 metres of a building used for accommodation and any vegetation, except for trees, within 30 metres of a building used for accommodation. Other bushfire protection measure exemptions relate to fenced property boundaries and the roadsides of existing public roads.

Will the potentially extensive removal of vegetation facilitated by Clause 52.43 alter the character of a locality to the extent that the amenity valued by residents no longer exists? Will people be safer but less satisfied with their environment? Can a balance be achieved? Will the final report of the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission recommend a different solution once the vegetation has already been removed in accordance with Clause 52.43?