Native Vegetation Clearance and safety on public roads

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The Society has provided feedback to the Native Vegetation Council Secretariat regarding the development of a framework for native vegetation clearance for safety on public roads. As it currently stands the framework could allow for the clearance of a substantial amount of native vegetation on the State’s road network, in many cases without the requirement for a Signifi cant Environmental Benefi t offset.

We are concerned that the draft framework which has been developed to provide guidance on native vegetation clearance has not been based on a sound and objective evaluation of the risks for biodiversity and the risks and benefi ts for road safety. The decisions have been made and guidelines developed without any modelling or investigation to evaluate their potential impact on the extent and quality of native vegetation on road sides.

By removing the requirement for a Signifi cant Environmental Benefi t offset when vegetation is cleared for road safety purposes, the disincentive for vegetation clearance is removed, making it more likely that vegetation clearance is the cheapest option and thus will be preferred in place of more expensive alternative road safety risk mitigation measures (eg barriers). The draft framework does not require road managers to exhaust all other potential risk mitigation measures prior to instigating clearance. Thus the removal of the requirement for Signifi cant Environmental Benefi t offsets in these circumstances undermines the effectiveness of the offset scheme which is intended to minimise the loss of native vegetation, and the framework does not in any way compensate for this.

We are also extremely concerned that the working group that have been developing this framework has been composed only of Department of Environment and Natural Resources staff, local Councils and the Department of Energy, Transport and Infrastructure. The latter two bodies have a clear driver to minimise costs and accountability and maximising the amount of clearance that would not require offsetting. These bodies should have been kept at arms length from the process, rather than oversee framework development. We are seeking far greater involvement of conservation interests, and, at the time of printing, have now been invited to participate in developing the framework.