FRANKSTON councillors have decided against asking the State Government to exempt the municipality from the "10/30 right" that allows landowners to clear vegetation for bushfire protection around their homes.
Instead, they want the Government to modify the "10/30 right", forcing landowners to seek a permit before felling any large trees.
They also want legal advice over what effect the new rules have on existing tree protection laws.Frankston has been rated by the CFA as being "low fire risk".
An officers' report to councillors recommending Frankston be added to the 20 municipalities around Melbourne exempted from the "10/30 right" states indiscriminate clearing could lead to plummeting property prices and a drop in rate revenue.
The State Government planning amendment that overrides all planning controls came into effect this month and will be reviewed in August next year.
Frankston and Mornington Peninsula Shire are among municipalities where property owners can remove vegetation within 10 metres of a house and shrubs and ground fuel within 30 metres.
"Therefore, the opportunity for abuse is significant," stated the report to a special council meeting last week.
Councillors were told the new rules had the potential to change the character of well-treed parts of the city, including the axing of "significant" trees and loss of Aboriginal "scar" trees.
Flow-on effects could include landslips, waterways being blocked by eroded soil, loss of habitat for native birds and animals and even increased stress and crime.
Cr Christine Richards, who voted against seeking the exemption, told The Independent she was concerned about potential abuse of the "right", particularly in her leafy ward of South Frankston and wanted more information on the best way to protect properties from fire made available to the community.She said residents wanted a greater understanding of which trees helped or hindered the spread of fire.
Melbourne University bushfire expert Kevin Tolhurst, has also warned that clearing could make houses more vulnerable to bushfire damage.