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March 31, 2023

Council considers camphor clearing

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Following mechanical clearing of camphor laurel trees in Tweed last month the council is considering whether it should develop its own policy on the matter.

The noxious woody weed, which eventually kills all other plants growing near its root system, creating a monoculture, is usually dealt with by a control plan developed by the Far North Coast County Council (FNCCC).

The issue was brought to the boil recently after a developer bulldozed about 50 camphor laurel trees on a Terranora hillside without notifying council staff.

The clearing was done next to a patch of rare lowland rainforest and there were fears exposed soil would wash tonnes of soil from the steep hillside into the Terranora Broadwater.

Mayor Barry Longland said the council could help tackle the danger of erosion by developing a policy, as the Tweed was listed as one of the most infested shires in NSW.

‘I’m very familiar with the camphor laurels and we are at the epicentre of this species. Having a local policy that is more rigorous than what is coming out of the North Coast County Council could be a good thing,’ he said.

‘I would support getting a report or a policy document on that.’

Cr Phil Youngblutt said poisoning large trees caused limbs to crash down unexpectedly and so was not always a viable method of eradication.

Like prickly pear

‘There was no camphor laurel around here 80 years ago, but it is like prickly pear in Queensland, it cannot be eradicated,’ he said.

Cr Warren Polglase opposed Tweed council developing its own plan, saying the eradication was best left in the hands of the FNCCC.

‘They have restrictions so that you can’t jump on a bulldozer and clear a steep hillside of the plants,’ said Cr Polglase.

‘I don’t think Tweed council should be involved. It will just create a duplication of government services. We don’t have weed inspectors coming to council and telling us how to do rezonings.’

Chief planner Vince Connell said sometimes the need for eradication clashed with NSW government environmental legislation, leading to council staff using an ‘internal policy’.

‘The general rule is that if you are removing more than 20 trees you need to lodge a development application,’ said Mr Connell.

‘Sometimes there can be other plants among the camphor laurel trees and a bit of care may be needed.’

Following the clearing at Terranora, council staff advised that although there had been a breach of council’s rules, it was not considered ‘significant in ecological terms’ and legal prosecution would likely fail.

Council ordered exposed soil on the site to be covered and a development application for any further clearing. A report is being prepared on options for camphor laurel clearing.

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