Five urban-bushland areas in Byron Shire which local planners had proposed to protect under the new E4 zones (Environmental Living) in its draft Local Environment Plan (LEP) are under threat of being developed for housing, according to the north coast’s peak nature conservation body.
One of those locations, around the Lilli Pilli estate, contains core habitat for the last remaining koala population in Byron Bay.
Submissions for the draft Byron Shire LEP closed last month, yet north coast National Party MPs Don Page and Thomas George announced afterwards that the E4 zones for urban bushland would also be excised on top of the E2 and E3 zones which had sparked controversy.
Save North Coast Nature (SNCN) called the move ‘outrageous’ as the MPs ‘chose to hide their intentions from the public until after submissions to the Byron LEP had closed’.
The five locations which had been earmarked as E4 are: Lilli Pilli estate at Byron Bay, Marshalls Creek at New Brighton, Marshalls Creek at South Golden Beach, Brunswick River at Mullumbimby, and the coastal cypress forest at Suffolk Park.
‘The E4 Environmental Living zone allows for low-density residential development, while ensuring the environmental values of the site are maintained within the development,’ SNCN’s Andy Baker said.
‘These protections may be removed permanently by the planning minister, allowing unfettered residential development in some of the shire’s most precious non-rural environments.
‘All areas proposed as E4 contain extraordinary environmental values, including primary koala habitat, endangered ecological communities, important habitat for threatened species and buffer areas for the estuaries of the Cape Byron Marine Park.
‘The Lilli Pilli estate is particularly important as it contains the core habitat for the last remaining koala population in Byron Bay, as well as important habitat and corridors for numerous other threatened flora and fauna in the area.
‘The original Lilli Pilli estate was allowed on the condition that most native vegetation be retained among the new houses.
‘But now residents are pushing for a second wave of development through the right to each build second separate dwellings at the expense of the last remaining habitat reserved in the original development.
‘As early as 2002, Council’s Byron Bay and Suffolk Park Settlement Strategy stated that the Lilli Pilli area had already been developed to the extent of environmental constraints, and was not suitable for separate dual occupancy.
‘If we allowed the doubling of separate dwellings in these areas, their irreplaceable environmental values would be lost forever.
‘The environmental significance of these areas has long been recognised and they simply can’t support open-slather residential development.
‘In applying E4 zones to these areas, Council is allowing for continued residential living while also trying to limit the further decline of these important habitats.
‘Under the proposed E4, owners can still have a house, run a home business and even have an attached second dwelling, the main change is that you can’t build a second separate dwelling.
‘The zone only applies to a small handful of residential properties in the Shire with extraordinary environmental values,’ Mr Baker told The Echo.