NSW planning minister Brad Hazzard has been invited to urgently meet with Tweed Shire councillors to discuss the draft Tweed Local Environment Plan (LEP), which fails to include a vital coastal koala habitat study.
A staggering 1,100 submissions on the LEP have been received by Council, many of them complaining about the controversial lack of protections for koala habitat. Submissions for the document officially closed last week.
A lengthy debate on the LEP in Council late last week ended with a majority decision to invite the minister and for the planning department to accept, as late submissions for the draft Tweed LEP, the recommendations from the koala study as well as council’s vegetation management strategy.
But the pro-development bloc (Crs Warren Polglase, Phil Youngblutt and Carolyn Byrne) lodged a rescission motion after the meeting to try to delay or scuttle the bid which they had opposed.
Deputy mayor Michael Armstrong was scathing over the LEP review process, describing it as a state government move to ‘take over Tweed planning laws’.
In a press release after the meeting, Cr Armstrong said Mr Hazzard had told north coast councils he would ‘not allow any new environmental protection on any residential or farmland areas’.
‘This is about the NSW state government wanting development to go unchecked right throughout the shire and not wanting to protect our region.’
He said the planning minister ‘has given clear directions as to what he will accept in local environment plans and has then threatened communities that he will take over the planning process if Council don’t follow his directions’.
Cr Gary Bagnall tried to have work on the LEP suspended unless the koala study and vegetation strategy were adopted as part of the draft LEP, but his amendment was not supported by majority councillors.
Cr Bagnall said the amendment reflected feedback by locals who were ‘outraged’ by the lack of environmental protection in the draft LEP 2012.
Mayor Barry Longland and Cr Armstrong’s alternative motion to enable both the draft vegetation strategy and the koala study to be considered as late submissions for the draft LEP 2012 ‘given the unique biodiversity of our region’, was approved 4–3 (Crs Polglase, Byrne and Youngblutt against).
Cr Polglase told Council he was concerned delays to council’s formal submission could give the state government the excuse to remove planning powers from council.
But Cr Armstrong says ‘the Tweed community has said enough is enough’.
‘We do not accept the NSW state government ripping away our right to develop our own planning controls.
‘As usual the National Party state MPs, Geoff Provest and Thomas George, are doing nothing to support locals. They are either unwilling or unable to tell their government what the local community wants.’