Ballina Shire Council will push for a review of the state government’s decision not to allow the council to take control of approving native forestry in the shire.
Late last year, the council voted to amend the Ballina Local Environment Plan 1987 to introduce a requirement for council consent for anyone undertaking private native forestry (PNF) in the shire.
PNF is the logging of native vegetation on private property, and it requires Environment Protection Authority approval.
Cr Paul Worth brought the issue to the council and as a result council staff prepared a planning proposal to amend the LEP, which was lodged with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment for a ‘Gateway determination’ in January.
But the Department rejected the application.
The council last week voted unanimously to ‘note the decision of the Department to reject the planning proposal, but submit a review application’.
Staff had also recommended that Ballina MP Tamara Smith, the Local Government Association of NSW, and other northern rivers councils be advised of the council’s actions.
Cr Worth told Echonetdaily that he was surprised by the state government’s decision.
‘I’m surprised by a lot of things but we’ll keep plodding away and hope that common sense prevails,’ Cr Worth said.
‘I’ve been a long term resident and I’ve seen people destroying fantastic koala habitat to remove it for timber and I’m opposed to it,’ he said.
‘The council should be the authority to give approval to do so.
‘The whole issue should be looked at at a more local level.’
Staff had told councillors that the main reasons for refusal appeared to be that a state government review of ‘E zones’ had not been finalized and ‘it was not seen as appropriate to include additional consent requirements in the deferred areas for a land use linked to existing rural pursuits’.
The Department also said an independent review of biodiversity legislation, including the Native Vegetation Act 2003, had recently been exhibited for public comment.
‘Given the proposed changes to biodiversity legislation it was considered to be premature to introduce new controls and duel consent provisions,’ the Department said in its response.
Staff countered however that the proposed amendments to the Ballina LEP 1987 were of no relevance to the government’s biodiversity review.
They also said that the introduction of the proposed provisions were not E zone dependent, and that the Department had not provided any information on a timeframe for the conclusion of the E zone review.
‘In the absence of the planning proposal being able to proceed, there is a risk of an open ended continuation of private native forestry with very limited regulation and further adverse impacts in relation to amenity, ecology, soil erosion, sedimentation, noise, traffic and roads,’ staff have warned in their report.
There are four other North Coast Councils apart from Byron who are seeking Protection for Koalas and a zoo of other highly Threatened and Vulnerable Species on the North East Coast and the actual of worth of millions of dollars in funding to create Local Government Koala Protection plans is questionable. Local Councillors are asked to represent their constituencies who witness the decline of Koalas and know intimately about the loss of Prime Koala Habitat from local development and the tens of thousands of trees lost between Port Macquarie and the Tweed to the Pacific Highway upgrade.
SEPP 44 the State Environmental Protection Law for Protection of Koalas has been taken apart and it against the background of changes to the Vegetation Laws (no DA’s Required for private land owners undertaking Primary Industry;the Integrated Northern Forestry Review; the Biodiversity Review; and then just for good measure add in the Planning Review and the Local Government Review.
There is a move by the Federal and NSW Government to forensically strip out any impediment to Econonomic Development and to overturn, remove or weaken any legislation that might consider Environmental or Social Concerns. This newly returned Baird government would do well to look at the values of economic prosperity that are contained within the vision of preserving what remains of our North Coast Native Forests on both Private and Public land and should not be putting Councillors (all volunteers) in the position of making half baked decisions because the results of all of the above reviews are unfinished, unclear and along the way seem to have lost every direction except that of a quick buck. The people of the North Coast will continue to fight for Koalas and their precious habitat.