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April 21, 2024

Have you commented on Ballina’s Draft Biodiversity Strategy?

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Ballina coast road. Photo David Lowe.

Time is running out to have your say on Ballina Council’s Draft Biodiversity Strategy, which explains what’s at risk, and what could be done, if there’s the will from local councillors and residents.

The Echo spoke to Ballina Cr Simon Chate, who said, ‘I think it’s important to get the community to highlight the importance of the biodiversity strategy.’

He said the document was available to read online now with an extended opportunity for comments (until 17 March). Cr Chate said it would be very disappointing if Ballina Council spent so much money researching and producing the draft strategy if it didn’t result in any action.

‘The strategy looks at how we’re going currently, and we’re not doing particularly well. We’ve got a D minus for our rivers and waters, for example. And within our shire, we’ve got only 20 per cent native forest cover,  where Byron’s at 35 per cent, and Tweed is 50 per cent. There’s lots of areas in which we’re not doing particularly well,’ said Cr Chate.

‘So staff have investigated all that in this beautifully illustrated biodiversity strategy, with some great ideas. And we’ve got to try and fund it. We don’t want this to be published and then nothing happens.’

The draft strategy says the shire contains around 150 threatened animals, at least eight threatened plants, and nine threatened ecological communities.

With the Ballina region’s natural environment being the main drawcard for visitors, it seems entirely sensible to do something to protect and enhance it, instead of taking what exists for granted.

Former Greens Leader Bob Brown and Ballina Cr Simon Chate in Lennox Head recently. Photo Tree Faerie.

Special rate variation?

Cr Chate would like to explore the idea of a small 1-2% special rate variation to fund the work needed.

According to Ballina Shire Council’s own research, there is wide support for a Biodiversity Strategy. The document states:

‘Our state [government] wants local governments to develop strategies. Our community wants us to protect our natural environment. Our previous council resolved to make one. Our biodiversity would appreciate it.’

The draft strategy is in response to Ballina Council’s own objective; ‘to protect, enhance and conserve biodiversity in urban and rural areas through revegetation and habitat rehabilitation.’

Cr Simon Chate notes that eight out of twelve neighbouring councils have implemented a Special Rate Variation or an Environmental Levy to fund their own action plans, but there appears to be a strong resistance from the currently elected Ballina councillors towards any sort of ‘rates adjustment’, despite a stated interest in protecting the environment.

‘We need to find funding to really put a strong foot forward in the protection of our biodiversity,’ said Cr Chate.

But Ballina Council has recently voted against the idea of an SRV or Environmental Levy, opting instead to seek funding via general resources and grants.

‘My concern with this approach is that we will struggle to find funding and the protection of our biodiversity will grind to a halt, ever waiting for that elusive grant or constantly being weighed against all the other important projects that will require considerable council funding,’ said Cr Chate.

He says a small rates increase, on the other hand, would make a significant impact in the amount of environmental protection available, with financial hardship funding available for those residents unable to afford any increase.

Ballina Cr Simon Chate. Photo David Lowe.

Love it or lose it

Whatever happens with rate variations, Cr Chate says ratepayers need to tell councillors what they value if they want Ballina’s biodiversity to be taken seriously.

‘Now is the time for the community to say this is important to us,’ he told The Echo.

‘We want to look after our wildlife. We want our koalas. We want our platypuses. We want our environmental health and its wildlife to be prioritised. Ballina Shire has the least amount of native vegetation in the region.

‘If the community wants to emphasise the importance of our environment, then now is when we need to let Ballina Council know.’

Public comment on the Draft Biodiversity Strategy closes on 17 March.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Ballina’s Draft Biodiversity Strategy, has already been fully demonstrated, when they opened up the beaches to four-wheel drives,
    this preserves the right to trash the best assets in Ballina and annihilate any surviving wildlife.
    End of story ! 30. G”)

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