A precious slice of bushland adjoining Mullumbimby’s Tallowood housing estate would be put in public hands under a motion to be voted on at next week’s Byron Council meeting.
A group of ecologically-minded residents living in and around the estate have long called for the Tallowood Ridge Reserve to be taken over by the Council to ensure the old growth trees and their many native inhabitants are protected.
The move would also guarantee local access to the area, rather than the current plan, that risks seeing them being locked out.
In a notice of motion contained in the agenda to the December 17 meeting, Greens Councillor Sarah Ndiaye has proposed that Council formally become custodians of the five-acre site.
‘Currently the land is scheduled to be allocated to seven [private] landholders that do not adjoin the land,’ Cr Ndiaye says in the motion.
‘I, and many others believe it will be best protected by having broader community support, and Council, as custodians of the area.
‘Otherwise, in private ownership and so far away from the dwellings of the Community Title, we fear it will become overrun with weeds, as has occurred in neighbouring properties around Brushbox Drive [in the Tallowood estate].’
Adding to the argument for Council to take over the site is the fact that the developer of the Tallowood estate, Eric Freeman, has publicly stated that he is willing to hand it over free of charge.
There is also a group of around 30 locals, the Tallowood Ridge Landcare group, that has received a grant to maintain the site and indicated its willingness to continue doing so into the future.
Protected in perpetuity
‘Our key concern is for the vegetation and wildlife of this precious site to be protected in perpetuity,’ said Nicolette Jackson, a member of the Landcare group.
‘We’ve seen what can happen when areas like this are placed in private hands, even when they’re subject to legal protections, and we don’t want to see that happen again.’
However, a potential stumbling block facing the motion is that of apparent opposition by Byron Council staff.
In a short report accompanying the notice of motion, Development Planning Officer, Christopher Soulsby, said that in the long-term the reserve was to be managed by a ‘community association’.
This appears to be a small group of private landowners.
‘Such an arrangement ensures the protection and management of the vegetation without the financial burden of bringing the land into public ownership,’ Mr Soulsby said in his report.
‘To date, Council has resisted effort by developers to dedicate land that has no development potential.
‘This has occurred at the West Byron development and here at Tallowood.’