The highly criticised NSW Koala SEPP (state environmental planning policy) that has been put forward by the NSW Liberal-National coalition does not protect Tweed Shire rural koala populations said Tweed Shire Mayor Chris Cherry (Independent) at last week’s council meeting.
Under the recently approved Tweed KPoM (Koala Plan of Management) it is only the coastal koala communities that were protected. It doesn’t protect the vital rural koala populations in Tweed or other surrounding shires of Byron, Lismore, Port Macquarie, and Gunnedah.
‘The Koala SEEP is not proposing to cover all of our rural lands in our shire. That is based on the assumption that our rural lands are not under development pressure. That is simply not true,’ Mayor Cherry told the meeting.
‘We have got a lot of increasing development pressure. It is incredibly important that we have a mechanism to protect our koalas. The Koala SEEP will only affect new developments. It doesn’t affect normal farming practices. It only comes into action when we are doing new development on our lands.’
Mayor Cherry pointed out that the Koala SEPP would remove the council’s ability to manage private native forestry and that there is a high likelihood it will lead to ‘pre-emptive clearing’ by developers who were seeking to develop currently forested areas in the future.
Mayor Cherry emphasised that connectivity to the region’s National Parks and other areas was vital for healthy koala populations in the future.
‘If rural land is not included then we can’t protect them [koalas]. Our koalas need to have connectivity to survive.’
‘It needs to recognise that those koalas can’t operate in isolation,’ she told the meeting.
The Mayoral minute put forward recognised MP Geoff Provest’s (National) ‘advocacy for the approval of the Tweed Coast Koala Plan of Management and other measures to improve the prospects for koalas on the Tweed Coast’.
In particular, the 73ha at Bogangar near Cudgen Nature Reserve known as Lot 2, Clothiers Creek Road, Bogangar was referred to by Councillor Warren Polglase (Conservative) who told the council that ‘Geoff Provest has always supported the koalas’.
MP Provest had facilitated the purchase of this land by the NSW government to be added to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Cudgen Nature Reserve.
Protect rural koalas
However, importantly, the Mayoral minute requested that ‘the Tweed Shire and other councils with significant koala populations (e.g. Byron, Lismore, Port Macquarie and Gunnedah) be treated in the same manner as the Central Coast Council where Koala SEPP 21 applies to all zones including rural zones.’
Councillor James Owen (Liberal) told the meeting that ‘ever since the Koala SEPP came out I know there are serious concerns about it. That’s why I asked Catherine Cusack to come and speak today [at open access]. She crossed the floor. She said koalas would be gone in 50 years if we don’t do something. I’m totally on board with her. I think we really need to protect the koala and get this SEPP where it needs to be.’
Councillor Katie Milne (Greens) recognised the importance of koala protection to the community.
‘This is an incredibly stressful time for many people who are worried,’ said Cr Milne.
‘In Tweed our community has been fighting for many years to protect our koalas and to have this koala bill presented with so little community consultation is not best practice planning.
‘I think we have to really unite on this. I hope as a shire and a region that we can put our case forward that we seek to be treated the same way as Sydney and Central Coast have been. We have a world heritage area and our koalas need protection.’
Rural land owners
Councillor Pryce Allsop (Conservative) made his focus the impact on rural landowners.
‘Whilst we all love and adore the koalas we also need to be super mindful of rural landowners and the Tweed overall,’ he told the meeting.
‘It all sounds good but I need to know its rock solid and we are not pulling someone’s pants down on this.’
Ultimately the motion was carried with Cr Allsop voting against it.
- Writes to Mr Geoff Provest MP expressing Council’s appreciation for his advocacy for the approval of the Tweed Coast Koala Plan of Management and other measures to improve the prospects for koalas on the Tweed Coast.
- Requests the Tweed Shire and other councils with significant koala populations (e.g. Byron, Lismore, Port Macquarie and Gunnedah) be treated in the same manner as the Central Coast Council where Koala SEPP 21 applies to all zones including rural zones.
- Seeks an urgent meeting with the State members for Tweed and Lismore, Mr Geoff Provest MP, and Ms Janelle Saffin MP respectively, and the Minister for Planning and Public Places, the Hon. Rob Stokes to discuss the following issues: a) potential amendments to the Koala SEPP 2021 to permit the preparation of koala plan of management under the Koala SEPP to apply to all land, including rural zoned land. b) the proposed removal council’s consent role in relation to forestry. c) environmental planning measures to ensure that koala habitat is appropriately zoned in Council LEPs. d) further consultation with stakeholders including councils, researchers and practitioners to ensure the Koala SEPP 2021 meets the needs and aspirations of local communities. e) further investment in hardwood plantations instead of harvesting native forest.
- In accordance with the mandatory requirement of Clause 16 of the Koala SEPP 2020, resolves to: a) commence work on surveying land within the Shire (excepting National Parks and land covered by the Tweed Coast Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management) to identify koala habitat; and b) on completion of this work advises Council of its outcomes and brings forward a report on appropriate environmental planning measures to protect and manage koalas and their habitat in those areas.