Byron Council will this Thursday debate the introduction of a wildlife corridor system that is designed to help local landowners prioritise the restoration of native habitat.
But the new system will have no legal weight, and thus little practical impact on the development of ecologically sensitive areas in the Shire.
The outcome of a lengthy planning and consultation process, the corridor system is essentially a map of the linear areas that play a crucial role in connecting plant and animal populations.
‘The intention of the system is to provide Council and other conservation groups with a tool to help them plan and prioritise habitat restoration,’ Byron Council’s Biodiversity Officer, Lizabeth Caddick said.
‘For the broader community, the map will show people where they fit within the big picture of our natural landscape – to inspire residents to restore wildlife habitat, by showing them how important their backyard is for native plants and animals.’
‘We want the community to get behind the map, use it to learn what threatened species may be using their property, and use the associated planting lists to plant the right species to help support wildlife.’
Council documents contained within the agenda to this week’s Council meeting show that Council received more than 100 submissions in relation to the proposed system during the public consultation period late last year.
Most of these submissions came from landowners who were concerned about how the new map would impact on the future use of their land.
Thirty-one people requested that their properties be wholly or partially removed from the corridor map.
In response to these concerns, Council staff have proposed the removal of the corridor across moderate to high density land use zones.
This means that it will not apply to large section of the Shire, including many areas where biodiversity is most at risk from development.
Staff have also been at pains to emphasise that the corridor system is a guide, rather than a Council policy with any legal authority.
‘The community, including many people who are already restoring habitat on their properties, are not going to get behind this map if it is perceived as another planning restriction, that penalises landholders who have already created or protected wildlife habitat, and creates additional costs for landholders to carry out permitted land uses or compliant development,’ Ms Caddick said.
Treated as a guide
‘For Council to be able to use the map to its best advantage, we recommend that it is treated as it was intended – as a guide to encourage habitat creation and restoration, rather than a land use planning tool.’
Staff recommend that councillors endorse the new corridor system at this week’s meeting, along with amendments to ensure that landholders are made aware that the wildlife corridor map is not a statutory land use planning zone.