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Byron Shire
May 18, 2021

Environment ‘cut from planning’ LEP campaign heats up

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Luis Feliu

A group of Byron Shire rural landowners are ramping up their campaign to rid the shire’s draft Local Environment Plan (LEP) of new environmental zones that they claim will affect their ability to farm.

But Byron Council says many of their fears are unfounded, while an environmental group says the government had ‘effectively removed the environment from local planning’ by its recent decision to excise the new E2 and E3 zones from Byron, Tweed, Lismore, Ballina and Kyogle councils’ LEPs for further review.

The Byron Rural Action Group (BRAG), which welcomed the government’s intervention, has organised a second public meeting on the issue, to be held in Bangalow next Wednesday, November 7, at which they’re offering to help fill out submissions for the draft LEP, which is on display till November 23.

And the Conservation Ecologists Association (CEA) has called for the five councils’ LEPs to be deferred until the state government completes its review of environmental zones that it has temporarily excised.

CEA spokesperson, Dr Robert Kooyman, questioned why the government excised the environmental zones and overlays from the LEPs from the far north coast region.

‘Do we really have to remind the state government that this region is a recognised biodiversity hotspot of national and international significance?’ Dr Kooyman said.

‘Have they forgotten that its rainforests are of world-heritage value? Do they need reminding that historic over-clearing, logging and infrastructure development have resulted in this region having the greatest number of plant and animal species threatened with extinction in NSW?

‘By intervening to excise environmental protection from this region’s local environment plans, the NSW government has removed the responsibility and right of north coast communities to identify what they consider appropriate protection for rainforests, old-growth forests, endangered ecosystems, core koala habitat, wildlife corridors, scenic escarpments, water catchments and riparian buffers, and other high-conservation-value lands,’ he said.

Conditions

In a two-page advertisement in The Echo this week, BRAG uses a map of the shire with all the waterways marked in and headlined ‘Where will you farm?’ The ad claims the draft Byron LEP proposes ‘development conditions within 40 metres’ of each watercourse in the shire.

But Byron Shire’s chief planner Ray Darney told Echonetdaily that council already considers development near waterways or watercourses as part of the development application process.

Mr Darney said landowner concerns over the watercourse mapping in the draft LEP would be considered ‘and it may be an overlay that Council adjusts’.

‘At clause 6.12 within the draft LEP, waterways and watercourses would be considered as part of development application in order to protect and maintain the water quality, aquatic and riparian habitats, and the stability of banks.

‘The draft LEP does not stop development, only states that any proposed development on waterways should be considered.

‘Existing farming activities would not be affected by this provision. It only applies to development that requires development consent such as a rural dwelling house

‘Waterways and watercourses are sensitive ecological areas that provide significant corridors for flora and fauna. As many also connect with the shire’s water catchment, we need to consider development in these areas,’ Mr Darney said.

‘Similarly, significant waterways are proposed to be zoned as Environmental Zone E2 along with High Conservation Vegetation (HCV) areas, Mr Darney said.

Corridors

BRAG says that 8,500 hectares of rural land in the shire was being rezoned for environmental protection and that ‘large tracts of rural land to be overlaid with wildlife corridors and conditions’.

But Mr Darney says development applications assessed under the current 1988 LEP already take into consideration if land is located within wildlife corridors, has high conservation value, contains koala habitat or is near a waterway.

‘These planning considerations are not new and are clearly documented within the 2004 Biodiversity Conservation Strategy,’ he said.

Mr Darney added that the NSW Planning template required existing land zones to be transferred to a ‘like’ land use zone within the new LEP.

But he said planning minister Brad Hazzard’s removal of E2 and E3 zones from the north coast LEPs has ‘placed uncertainty around these zones’.

Mr Darney said Council would hold a workshop on the new environmental zones on Saturday, November 17 aimed at finding ‘a balance between supporting the agricultural industry and maintaining the shire’s biodiversity’.

 

Dr Kooyman said that, as yet, there was ‘no indication of what, if any, environmental controls on land use the state government was going to allow to be restored to LEPs and in what manner’.

‘The state government should complete its review urgently, issue clear guidelines, and refund councils for any work required to accommodate this last-minute political intervention,’ he said.


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3 COMMENTS

  1. Luis Feliu,

    Byron Shire Echo should be ashamed of its reporting principals or lack of them.

    A group of concerned farmers have paid a large amount to your newspaper (a contribution to your salary and expenses) to advertise an alert to rural landowners of Councils proposals to re-zone, diminish values, sterilize farmland and effect their livelihoods by stealth.

    You used our advertisement to create a story without inviting our comment or affording any balance to the article. We provided contact details for comment but were ignored.

    You report, that “Byron Council says” our fears are unfounded! Please be reminded that Mr Ray Darney is not Byron Shire Council, he is an employee who may assume he represents Byron Shire Council. Please also remember that we have a freely elected Mayor and 8 Councillor’s who have been elected less than two months ago by the residents of Byron Shire. Please give them your respect and respect to the residents of Byron Shire who elected them.

    Mr Darney states in your story the The State Government template requires EXISTING LAND ZONES to be transferred to LIKE use land zones. Is the re-zoning of 8,552 ha of Rural zoned Farmland to Environmental protection zones LIKE FOR LIKE? Shouldn’t that fact trigger a question, interest or some investigation from you?

    Unfortunately when Mr Darney refers to the Minister statement about excising E2, E3 and overlays from the LEP he doesn’t clarify the fact that such excitement is not over existing land protected under environmental zones. In relation to Byron Shire, The Minister is referring to the 8,552 ha of RURAL LAND proposed to be rezoned to environmental protection and NEW overlays. Further more the Minister States that such excitement will be subject to review.

    Farmers are the core of future conservation work in the Shire Many of us do this work in our own time and at our own expense. Luckily we are encouraged and inspired to do these works by an amazing group of people associated with The Big Scrub Landcare Group, similar groups and Rainforest regeneration specialists and Rainforest nursery specialists.

    Council may re-zone privately owned farmland for conservation purposes but without the farmer to nurture, maintain and regenerate that land the only thing that will be achieved is a choking, spreading weed infested mono culture of Camphor Laurel.

    If Farmland is re-zoned to a Conservation Zone the value is immediately diminished and that may effect the lending ratio of a Mortgage or could cause a foreclosure to a local farming family. Does Council want people off their Land and Camphors to reign?

    Come along to our meeting next week. Listen to a farmer whose land value has been decimated due toe re-zoning to E2. Listen to what Valuers have to say.

    We have had two recent meetings of concerned land owners, both well attended with standing room only. It is our Land that is being drastically effected yet we haven’t been invited to attend the Council Workshop on 17 November.

    Likewise during the Local Environment Study (a precursor to the Draft LEP 2012) not one farmer, farming group or farming society was invited to participate in the process yet just about every other group, organisation, committee or alliance was.

    Luis, Byron Shire deserves fair and balanced investigative reporting on this matter and we hope you will provide that.

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