Louise Savrda, Rex Harris, Alli Page and Emma Morley, Byron Rural Action Group
In an article printed in Echonetdaily on Tuesday 30 October, the Byron Rural Action Group has been misrepresented as wanting to ‘rid the Shire’s Draft Local Environment Plan (LEP) of new environmental zones which it claims will affect their ability to farm’. This statement is incorrect and should be retracted immediately. Environmental management of land is of fundamental importance to this region and its community. We totally agree. Most farmers practise good environmental management on a daily basis and invest their time, energy and money in the regeneration of lands and the improvement of soils.
We have never said ‘remove E zones’. What we have said is that land that is currently zoned for primary production should retain that land use. Instead, Council has excised large areas of agricultural land to environmental protection and wildlife corridors. The fact that Council has got it wrong for many properties and has managed to identify environmental protection zones that are completely inappropriate (eg macadamia orchards, camphor laurel infestations) has been overlooked.
We argue that using the LEP to protect what is already protected under Commonwealth and state legislation (eg Threatened Species Conservation Act, Native Vegetation Conservation Act, Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, National Parks & Wildlife Act, Water Management Act, Fisheries Management Act… to name just a few) is inappropriate and will be counterproductive. Many farmers have expressed outrage that all their hard work (at their own expense) to regenerate land has resulted in a punitive outcome. That is, a land grab by Council that results in a loss of land-use rights and devalues properties by as much as 50 per cent. On this basis, many farmers will simply stop regeneration work because it is no longer viable from the triple bottom line (people, environment and profit). Is this really what the community wants?
Council is also proposing that biodiversity terrestrial overlays (wildlife corridors) be considered for Endangered Ecological Community (EEC) candidature. Lowland Subtropical Rainforest, the iconic high-conservation value vegetation of our shire and region, is already listed as endangered under state and Commonwealth legislation respectively. This provides appropriate protection right now.
Minister Brad Hazzard has stated to Council that they cannot rezone agricultural land to E2, E3 and environmental overlays without providing the evidence to support such a rezoning. Council already knows that the maps they have based these rezonings on are flawed. Unfortunately, it is local landholders that must now spend their time, money and energy collecting and collating this evidence.