The NSW Rural Fire Service will consider amendments to controversial vegetation-clearing laws for bushfire zones as more evidence emerges of homeowners in built-up urban areas using the new powers to clear land for development and improving harbour views.
Residents in Seaforth have complained a number of large gum trees have been cut down on the back of the 10/50 vegetation clearing code of practice for bushfires that came into effect this month.
It follows concerns that homeowners in Mosman, Hornsby, Lane Cove and Beecroft, which have been all been designated as bushfire zones, will use the laws to clear unwanted trees.
Residents in Lane Cove reported a much-admired gum tree had been ringbarked last week, after a failed attempt to cut it down, just in case the 10/50 laws were changed before the tree could be removed.
One resident said: "This is a classic example of how the code is impacting on neighbourhood trees. I was out walking this morning and I could hear the chainsaws going even in the rain."
Rural Fire Service deputy commissioner Rob Rogers said a meeting with concerned councils would take place early this week to discuss the laws. Mr Rogers said most council submissions received before the code came into effect had been about the bill and not the code.
"But if there are any unintended consequences, we are happy to look at them," he said.
Mr Rogers said the fire service would continue to work with the Office of Environment and Heritage and the Department of Planning and act on their advice.
The laws allow people who are living within 350 metres of designated bushfire prone areas to clear trees on their property within 10 metres of a home and shrubs within 50 metres, without seeking approval. It makes no distinction between bushland and urban areas.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said the laws had only been in place for four weeks but his office had received a stream of complaints, many of which had been "very emotional about the loss of cherished trees".
"We are seeing moves among communities to stand up to these chainsaw-driven laws and voluntarily declare themselves a 10/50 free zone," said Mr Shoebridge.
The felling of the trees at Seaforth, which locals believed was to facilitate the development of the land, came after The Sun-Herald revealed last week residents were cutting down trees at a rate of 10 a day in Pittwater, according to the council.
A Manly Council ranger was called to the Seaforth property and one tree was saved from being cut down because it was outside the 10 metres zone around the owner's house, but the others were felled legally under the new laws.
A spokesman for Manly Council said it was the only incident reported since the laws came in. He said the northern beaches municipal area had not had a bushfire for at least 17 years.
Have you seen any trees cut down in your area? Email firstname.lastname@example.org