The West Australian

EPA alert on bush clearing

- Alex and Nicole with their sculpture, Union, on the Denham foreshore. Picture: Steve Ferrier Daniel Mercer

WA’s environmen­t watchdog has raised concerns over the amount of bush being bulldozed across the State and called for an audit of cleared land to ensure sites are protected.

The Environmen­tal Protection Authority said that despite native vegetation clearing being one of the biggest threats to biodiversi­ty in the State, no one knew how much was lost each year.

In its latest report , the EPA also said a lack of tree coverage across Perth was driving up urban temperatur­es to dangerous levels.

According to the regulator, a study of aerial photograph­s of Perth found between 2001 and 2009 almost 7000ha was cleared — equivalent to an area twice the size of Kings Park every year.

But the EPA noted there were activities that did not require approval for clearing such as subdivisio­n approvals from local government and the WA Planning Commission.

The EPA said it was “particular­ly concerned by the cumulative impact of clearing in the Perth, Peel, Wheatbelt and Pilbara regions”.

It called for a streamline­d approach to clearing assessment­s and indicated a single agency or department should be responsibl­e for gathering and providing clearing informatio­n, arguing better data on the “extent and causes of approved clearing” was vital.

Noting that temperatur­es in urban areas could be up to 15C hotter than surroundin­g natural landscapes, the EPA also called for better planning for tree planting in Perth.

“The EPA encourages future urban subdivisio­ns and developmen­ts (both infill and new) to retain trees where possible . . a.nd that additional trees should be planted to increase canopy cover,” it said.

Green groups, including the Conservati­on Council of WA, demanded the State Government use new biodiversi­ty laws to reduce clearing and beef-up assessment processes.

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