Koala campaigners say they’re confused by a rogue submission sent to the federal government by a councillor which opposes Tweed Shire Council’s bid for a total dog ban at the massive Kings Forest housing development.
Cr Carolyn Byrne told the federal environment department in her individual submission that she did not support a total dog ban at Kings Forest where 4,500 homes are planned to be built.
But last November, Cr Byrne, a member of the minority conservative/National Party faction on council, voted in support of council’s submission for a policy to restrict dogs, except for assistance animals (such as guide dogs for the blind).
She voted for the dog ban, despite arguing against it during the council debate which saw Cr Byrne’s factional colleagues Crs Warren Polglase and Phil Youngblutt vote against the dog ban.
Cr Byrne’s submission was the only one of 10 from individuals, lodged under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, which opposed the total dog ban.
Cr Byrne denies ‘double dealing’ over the issue saying her ‘position remains the same’.
She told Echonetdaily in a brief statement that ‘any decision should be based on scientific data not emotion’, an argument she used during council debate.
But Team Koala president Jenny Hayes says Cr Byrne was confusing residents by saying one thing in public, but then behind the scenes taking the contrary position to council’s formally adopted resolution.
‘I find it extraordinary that she made it clear to the people of the Tweed last November that she wanted to give our Tweed Coast koalas a fighting chance by voting for a dog ban,’ Ms Hayes told Echonetdaily.
‘But then she wrote a submission as a representative councillor to the federal government supporting dogs at Kings Forest.
‘I guess the public of the Tweed must be very confused indeed, as certainly I am, as to where Cr Byrne stands on this issue,’ she said.
Cr Byrne in her submission said she supported the development of Kings Forest with conditions to minimise the impact on koalas in or traveling through the site.
‘I believe that these conditions are adequate along with minimising dogs to any assistant dogs and companion animals of less than 7kg, that are contained within fenced yards or homes,’ she wrote.
‘I do not support a complete ban on dogs for a number of reasons including the cost to regulate such an issue, that individuals do have rights to own pets and most pet owners act responsibly (any dogs that are not will be managed by the regulations of councils and by council rangers).
‘Any banning or restrictions of dogs in Kings Forest should be based squarely on scientific data and credible information, not on political agendas or emotional blackmail or boycotts.
‘The Tweed needs the Kings Forest development to be able to provide land for some of the projected 40,000 increase in the population in this area by 2036.
‘By delaying or creating barriers that deter the developers is likely to increase the cost of the land if and when it is finally release, making the cost more prohibitive for young families and make housing less affordable (shortage of housing will also artificially inflate other housing prices in the area),’ she said.
In March 2012, the Kings Forest development by Leda Holdings was referred to the federal government under the EPBC Act due to concerns about impacts on a number of listed threatened species and ecological communities, including the decreasing number of koalas in and around the development site, as well as the Wallum sedge frog.
A total of 3,105 submissions were received during the exhibition period for the Kings Forest referral. More than 3,000 form and other letters objected to the development plus nine individual submissions and Tweed Council’s submission that expressed concerns about impacts on the environment and wildlife.
Tweed Shire Council’s submission includes ‘provision for a policy which excludes all dogs except for Assistance Animals as defined by Section 9 of the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992’.
Council says it ‘still retains concern that (cattle) grids will not effectively prevent dogs from entering sensitive koala habitat’.
It also holds concerns that ‘the Wallum sedge frog compensatory habitat proposal is experimental and that it is not clear if the very specific conditions required by these frogs can be re-created’.
It also has concerns with the timing of the developer’s provision of wildlife corridors.