A precious pocket of old growth forest in Mullumbimby is a step closer to being in public hands after Byron Shire councillors voted to take responsibility for the site last week.
Tallowood Ridge, located next to the Tallowood housing estate off Left Bank Road, features 100-year-old trees that are home to numerous species including koalas.
The site is protected by Land and Environment Court orders, but was set to become the responsibility of a small group of private landowners.
This raised concerns that more of the old growth trees would be lost and that the site would suffer from a lack of regular maintenance.
But following a long-running campaign from residents, councillors voted unanimously at last week’s meeting to enter into negotiations with the landowners, and/or the developer of the estate, to seek the gifting of the land to Council.
The developer, Eric Freeman, has previously indicated that he is willing to give the site to Council.
‘There are very few places in the community where people can access this type of forested area’, said Greens Cr Sarah Ndiaye, who put forward the proposal for Council to take over the site.
‘It’s an absolutely stunning example of what was here before we took over. It would be a real shame for this not to be well-managed into the future’.
The decision by Councillors came despite a report from Council staff recommending against such a move.
The staff report sited the cost to Council of maintaining the ridge as a key reason not take responsibility for it.
No development potential: staff
‘To date, Council has resisted effort by developers to dedicate land that has no development potential,’ Development Planning Officer, Christopher Soulsby, said.
Cr Ndiaye told the meeting that she had been quite disappointed with the staff report.
‘The overwhelming message from the biodiversity staff [as opposed to the planning staff] was that this was a really precious piece of land and there were plenty of funding opportunities for managing it into the future’.
‘It’s been proposed that landholders be the custodians of this very precious piece of land, but I feel that opens up the risk of pests, invasive species, trees being cut down…’ she said.
Speaking after the meeting, local resident Dave Rawlings, who has been part of the campaign to preserve the ridge, welcomed the decision.
‘It’s definitely a move in the right direction,’ he said.
‘We’re a big step closer to having the ridge in public hands.’