HOME owners will get increased powers to clear trees and other vegetation from their properties under a controversial move to prepare the state for another horror bushfire season.
The Victorian Government will announce today that it is overriding council permit requirements in bushfire-prone areas to ensure property owners can clean-up their land before summer. Under the rules, which will come into effect within weeks:
■ Residents will not need a council permit to clear any vegetation, including trees, within 10 metres of their house.
■ Lower-lying vegetation such as shrubs and "ground fuel" will be able to be cleared up to 30 metres from their house.
■ Land owners will be permitted to clear trees and other vegetation up to four metres either side of their fence lines, provided they have the consent of their neighbour.
■ People will be allowed to collect firewood "as of right" from roadside areas that have been identified as posing a high fire-risk area targeted for planned burning by the CFA.
Some councils and environmentalists fear the changes, foreshadowed in The Age four weeks ago, could result in some of Victoria's most scenic areas being denuded in the name of fire protection. But Premier John Brumby is expected to "sell" the move as a sensible way to help save lives while protecting the state's "liveability".
Environment Minister Gavin Jennings says the new "10/30 right" is a commonsense response to the Black Saturday bushfires, in which 173 people died.
"These changes are about making Victoria as fire safe and fire ready as possible," he says.
"They empower land owners and communities to make their own decisions about preparing their properties for the fire season."
Mr Brumby, who owns a farm near Bendigo, flagged the changes to laws governing the clearing of native vegetation from private property immediately after the February 7 fires.
He believes some non-metropolitan councils make it too difficult for people to clear their land of potentially hazardous vegetation.
"As a semi-rural landowner, I'm well aware of that," the Premier said in late February.
"In some of these areas there are delays, and listening to talkback radio over the last few weeks I've heard many of the callers saying they did want to clear up their backyards, but they were prohibited from doing that."
Mr Brumby will confirm today that the Government will accept all 51 recommendations of the interim report of the bushfires royal commission. But he will say some recommendations will not be able to be implemented in time for this summer, which forecasters have warned could be even more dangerous than last summer.
The Opposition will use this week's sittings of State Parliament - the first since the interim report was released - to accuse the Government of failing to prepare Victoria well enough to combat bushfires.
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