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Byron Shire
July 5, 2022

Hope for consensus over E-zones

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Did you know it’s been six months since councillors were elected? They have another two years to go, and while a usual term is a gruelling four years, this time, it’s shorter, owing to a disrupting bat virus.

This is the last week for Byron Shire residents to make a submission on the Draft Byron LEP 2012 with submissions closing next Monday, December 24.

Byron Council says it has received around 500 submissions so far and are expecting more again in this last week.

One of the most controversial aspects of the draft was the conversion of some existing rural zones to environmental (particularly E2) with many local farmers claiming their existing and planned future use of the land could potentially be threatened.

But environmentalists say the environmental zones are crucial in providing wildlife corridors and retaining remnant tracts of locally native vegetation.

After weeks of a Mexican standoff between the two groups, Andy Baker from Save North Coast Nature believes there may be some common ground developing.

‘There has been very strong support for E-zones and overlays in submissions from the community. Many people recognise the absolute importance of these areas for biodiversity conservation, with these areas making up around 60 per cent of the shire’s native forests, wetlands and wildlife habitats,’ he said.

‘But many submissions also reflect confusion over errors in the mapping of E2 zones, especially where the zone extends out well beyond native vegetation to include areas that are either cleared or have more than 50 per cent weed cover in the canopy. While the vast majority of E2 accurately comprises native vegetation needing protection, it is these additional erroneously mapped areas that are causing much of the community angst.’

Members of the Conservation Ecologists Association and Save North Coast Nature have been reviewing the original data and maps underpinning the draft E2 zones and say they can see where most errors are coming from.

‘We believe the vast majority of errors could be removed through desktop editing alone at relatively little cost to Council and we have met with Council staff to outline the issues and possible solutions,’ Mr Baker said.

‘While it’s been a very contentious issue in our community, the one thing all sides do agree on is that Council needs to fix E2 mapping errors by removing cleared lands and weed-dominated vegetation.

‘Most of our community want to see our native vegetation properly protected and would support E2 zones wholeheartedly if they were more accurately mapped. If these errors were removed from E2 zones, much of the community concern would evaporate.

‘We are confident that with improved mapping we could have a win-win situation where our native vegetation is protected for future generations, and appropriate land uses such as agriculture, housing and tourism can continue to thrive where they are best suited,’ Mr Baker said.

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