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Byron Shire
December 7, 2021

Special rate to protect Lismore’s environment

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Darren Coyne

Lismore residents say they love the natural environment … but do they love it enough to spend 70 cents a week?

A majority of Lismore city councillors believe they do, which is why they are set to put a draft Biodiversity Management Strategy on display, along with a proposal to raise $500,000 each year to fund it.

The decision to display the draft was met with stiff opposition from five councillors led by Cr Greg Bennett, who argued the strategy would place more regulations on landowners, particularly in the agriculture sector.

According to the staff report, the strategy would use incentives rather than regulations to achieve biodiversity management outcomes.

Cr Simon Clough, who moved the motion, said surveys had shown that people chose to live in the Lismore area because of the environment.

‘A regulatory system is not going to create good outcomes but the BMS is a practical document that sets up ways to partner with landowners to achieve positive outcomes for the environment,’ he said.

Cr Bennett tried to defer the exhibition saying that farmers were against it because they feared their land would be locked up in environmental zones.

But Cr Clough countered that it was not about regulation.

‘This draft is a very fine attempt to create a framework of incentives and partnerships with the rural community,’ he said.

‘It’s about increasing the toolbox of ways to improve biodiversity,’ he said.

The most contentious part of the strategy is the proposal to set a special rate to fund various projects related to the strategy.

Some of those projects include the Wilsons River regeneration, koala plan of management, roadside vegetation maintenance, and a rural partnering initiative.

The special rate would be payable by three categories of ratepayers: Farmland, residential and rural residential, but businesses excluded because they already pay a special business levy.

Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell said the draft would go on display on November 26 and would remain open for community feedback until February 24 next year


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