New South Wales Transport Minister Andrew Constance has hit back at reports he ordered the destruction of millions of trees to clear 40 metres on either side of every major road in the state after the devastating bushfires.
Letters between Mr Constance and then secretary of Transport for NSW Rodd Staples revealed the minister instructed Mr Staples – in February 2020 – to establish “a ‘clearance zone’ around all state-managed highways by ensuring trees within 40 metres either side cannot obstruct vital road access”.
Mr Constance received a response five months later from Mr Staples basically refusing the instruction, saying “TfNSW has limited power to establish a 40m clearance zone under the Roads Act 1993.”
Responding to questions today about the proposed “clearance zone”, Mr Constance said “go and read my letter, because it’s actually very clear … at the last paragraph the letter says very clearly ‘I'm seeking your advice’.”
NSW Shadow Finance Minister Daniel Mookhey – who questioned Mr Constance over the matter last month in budget estimates – said the transport minister was backtracking.
“Andrew Constance is wrong. Andrew Constance clearly ordered the destruction of trees within 40 metres of every state’s major highways himself,” he told Sky News.
“He secretly made this order without telling anybody about it.
“Now I can understand why the minister is back tracking at a speed of knots because he’s been caught out with his secret order.”