The ecological credentials of Byron Shire mayoral aspirants Basil Cameron and Diane Woods have been attacked by one of Byron’s most qualified environmentalists.
North East Forest Alliance spokesperson Dailan Pugh is asking people concerned about the environment to not vote for either of them, based on their attempts to reduce environmental protections in the draft LEP during the current term of council.
But Cr Cameron has hit back, saying that a balance needs to be struck between establishing environmental protection zones and maintaining food security and farmers’ rights.
Mr Pugh told Echonetdaily, ‘on April Fools Day 2010 they both voted to overturn Byron Shire’s 2004 Biodiversity Conservation strategy and delete 81 per cent of the mapped high-conservation-value (HCV) vegetation from the proposed Environmental Conservation (E2) zone for the new Local Environment Plan.
‘Thankfully the state government rules would not allow Cameron and Woods to remove the existing (1988) environmental protection zones (7A, 7B, 7F, 7J and 7K) and so these were all that remained as E2.
‘Cameron and Woods could not be convinced that even core koala habitat should be protected,’ Mr Pugh said.
‘When on June 24 2010 the Greens tried to reinstate protection for old-growth forest, rainforest, native ecosystems (with less than 50 per cent weeds), endangered ecological communities, habitat around threatened plants, shorebird roosting and foraging sites, and key wildlife corridors at Billinudgel and behind Byron Bay, Cameron and Woods blocked protection of any of these values.’
‘Fortunately, with the support of Patrick Morrisey, the Greens eventually prevailed to get E2 zoning reapplied to most of the HCV vegetation identified in the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy.’
Cr Cameron, who is currently deputy mayor and heads up Byron’s Our Sustainable Future’s ticket, has hit back at the claims.
‘I support and have never voted to overturn the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy (BCS),’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘High-conservation-value (HCV) vegetation that is accurately mapped and meets the criteria in the BCS should remain in E2.’
‘Smaller or isolated remnants of HCV that occur on land zoned for agriculture should be protected with environmental protection zone E3 and the range of permitted agricultural uses expanded.’
‘To do otherwise will lock up large areas of land currently being used or potentially being used to strengthen local food security.’
‘Many farmers currently use income generated from agriculture to enhance biodiversity and expand areas of HCV on their properties. Restricting their income would jeopardise this important work.’
But Mr Pugh says the issue is more complex because the state government is set to ban council use of tree preservation orders to control land clearing on private properties.
‘Since 1986 Byron Shire has been using its tree preservation order (TPO) to protect native vegetation. But the state government has now decided to prohibit TPOs for properties over 10 hectares. With this state government in the process of winding back protection for native vegetation it has never been more important for Byron Shire to retain its protection for HCV forests by zoning them as E2.
‘Regrettably Basil Cameron and Diane Woods still want to remove 26 years of protection for native vegetation in Byron Shire and open up our most important forests for logging, mining, grazing, cropping, and horticulture. If your neighbour is allowed to construct CSG wells in their rainforest, log their old-growth forests or clear koala habitat for crops then it will be because they succeed.’
Cr Woods was approached for comment but none was received by press time.
About the E2 zone
The department of planning states that the new E2 zone is intended for ‘areas with high ecological, scientific, cultural or aesthetic values’ where the intent is to provide ‘the highest level of protection, management and restoration for such lands whilst allowing uses compatible with those values’. Examples of lands with very high conservation values given by Department of Planning are old-growth forests, significant wildlife, wetlands, riparian corridors, endangered ecological communities, high-conservation coastal foreshores, and water-supply catchments.