The NSW government’s controversial review of north coast environmental protection zones (E-zones), which sparked a public outcry when it was announced last year, is now underway and open for further submissions till March 11.
Planning minister Brad Hazzard announced the review of the environmental zones in the draft north coast LEPs late last year after lobbying from some landowners and farmers.
But when Mr Hazzard excised the E2, E3 and E4 zones from Byron, Ballina, Lismore, Tweed and Kyogle council areas for the ‘review’, he sparked a backlash from environmental groups who feared protections for wetlands, wildlife, forests and other natural areas would be lost to development.
An umbrella group of north coast environmental organisations called Save North Coast Nature (SNCN) sprang up as a result, and urged locals to send submissions to the planning department.
The planning department has appointed consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff Australia to conduct the review, with information sessions being held in each shire later this month.
SNCN spokesman Andy Baker said the review was open to new submissions and that ‘even if you’ve sent one before, this one will make the difference’.
‘This is our best chance to keep the region’s unique environment protected for the future,’ Mr Baker told Echonetdaily.
‘Right now, the Department of Planning and Infrastructure is reviewing the future of our natural areas: protect for the future or erase for development?
‘Pro-development interests are lobbying hard to wipe out environmental protections to fast-track approvals for destructive developments.
‘But our wider community treasures its natural environment, and together we need to let them know that we want our natural areas protected from inappropriate development.
‘We believe this is the testing ground to wind back environmental protections across NSW. We need to let the government know that we demand a balanced and unbiased review of our key environmental protections, and that we won’t let them trash our precious environment for short-sighted economic growth.’
Mr Baker said that environmental protection zones have provided fundamental protection for natural areas in NSW for nearly 30 years and their removal ‘must be justified on social, environmental and economic grounds’.
‘It is essential to exclude inappropriate development from high-conservation-value native vegetation on both private and Crown lands.
‘It is important to protect rare, endangered and vulnerable ecosystems, rainforest, oldgrowth forest, wetlands, koala habitat, key fauna habitat, shorebird roost and nest sites, and flying-fox camps.
‘Clearing, coal-seam gas mining, logging and intensive developments are inappropriate in high-conservation-value native vegetation.’
He said those concerned should send a quick submission, via http://www.northcoastnature.org.au/review-submission.
The department’s public ‘drop-in’ information sessions will be held between 11am and 2pm or 4pm and 7pm in Ballina shire on Wednesday, February 20, (at the Lennox Head Cultural and Community Centre), for Byron shire on Thursday, February 21 (at Mullumbimby Civic Hall), Tweed on Monday, February 25 (Community Centre in Nullum Street), Lismore on Tuesday, February 19 (Lismore Workers Sports Club, and Kyogle on Monday,February 18 (Kyogle Memorial Hall).
If you can’t attend, you can make comments to the consultants by emailing [email protected]