Revisions to regulations surrounding the removal of Chinese Scrub has made it easier for district residents and municipal councils in rural areas to clear the weed without a permit.By Bronwyn Beyers
For a number of years district residents have battled with an unsightly weed and fire risk known as Chinese Scrub, a protected species.
Heathcote resident Monica Frahm, who lives on acreage between the McIvor Range and Costerfield, said the plant was frustrating and dangerous, especially in an extreme bushfire risk area and for senior members of the community struggling to stay on top of a plant they believe they cannot legally remove from their properties.
‘‘I’m 70 and my husband is 73, and when we moved up here about five years ago, the property was clear of Chinese Scrub,’’ she said.
‘‘But after the rains at the end of the drought, it started popping up all over the place.’’
Mrs Frahm’s mother, who is in her 90s, also lives with the couple at the property and was concerned about the fire risk Chinese Scrub posed.
‘‘She was in a nursing home before we brought her up here and she absolutely loves it,’’ Mrs Frahm said.
‘‘She still drives, but if there was a fire, she is really worried that if we’re not here at the time, she won’t be able to get out because of all the Chinese Scrub along the roadsides, which isn’t being cleared.
‘‘The council says it can’t slash a lot of the roadsides because there’s too much debris like old logs and fallen branches, so it’s too dangerous.
‘‘Hylands Lane is so bad they put the lane through to Nagambie Rd to give us another way out if there’s a bushfire, but you couldn’t use it in a fire because of the all the scrub.
‘‘It’s scary and I don’t see why it can’t be cleared. We’ve even been thinking about selling up we’re so worried, and we really don’t want to leave because we love it here.’’
Solving the puzzle was no easy task, but after City of Greater Bendigo media officer Ros Manning found an obscure reference to the plant’s status on the internet, all was revealed.
For the history buffs, Chinese Scrub or cassinia arcuata is so named because it thrived in the disturbed ground around the old gold diggings and mines.
The land was of such poor quality it was of no interest to farmers, so the Chinese miners and traders took up the land, often reworking the old diggings for good returns, and also used the scrub as roof thatching for their houses.
Chinese Scrub is, like acacia (wattle) a colonising plant, growing where almost nothing else will and helping to prepare the soil for more sensitive plant species in the future.
Despite popular belief, the plant itself is not a protected species, but as a native or indigenous plant, falls under the Victorian laws and regulations relating to management of native vegetation.
In September 2008, revisions were made to the Victorian Planning Provisions and planning schemes in relation to the clearance of native vegetation on public and private land, which actually made it easier for district residents and municipal councils in rural areas to clear chinese scrub without a permit.
The revisions also included the Bushfire Management Overlay or Wildfire Management Overlay, providing exemptions to property owners for clearing native vegetation that also allows chinese scrub to be removed.
The Bushfire Management Overlay applies to a large number of properties in the district, especially those outside urban centres like Heathcote and Axedale, and allows greater freedom to clear properties of native vegetation like chinese scrub for bushfire protection purposes.
Known as the 10/50 rule, all landowners in areas covered by the Bushfire Management Overlay are allowed to clear, without a planning permit, any vegetation on their property within 10m of a house, including trees, and any vegetation except for trees within 50m of a house.
If the property had already been lawfully cleared within the past 10 years, property owners are free to remove the regrowth.
Councils and other authorities responsible for the management of roadside vegetation were also granted an exemption under Clause 52.17 to remove native vegetation in order ‘to maintain the safe and efficient functioning of an existing public road or railway’ and for bushfire management purposes.
Those who live on properties not covered by the Bushfire Management Overlay can still clear chinese scrub from around their homes according to the 10/30 rule, which allows clearing of any vegetation within 10m of a house, and any vegetation except trees within 30m of a house or dwelling, as well as any regrowth on a property legally cleared within the last ten years.
Residents and property owners can check if their property is covered by the Bushfire Management Overlay by visiting www.planningschemes.dpcd.vic.gov.au/greaterbendigo/home or by phoning Greater Bendigo planning services on 5434
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