A biodiversity policy that has the potential to boost tourism and help save endangered ecological communities such as Porters Creek Wetlands at Warnervale, the single largest wetland in the region, or the Coastal Sand Wallum Heathland found at Soldiers Beach, Norah Head, has been sent back to the Central Coast Council drawing board.
The draft strategy went to the June 22 meeting for the councillors to adopt after being out on public exhibition, but Deputy Mayor, Jane Smith, said it still needed amendments and clarifications.
Cr Smith moved a series of amendments including the addition of a theme called Protect and Expand the Coastal Open Space System (COSS), a network of bushland reserves first set aside by the former Gosford Council and managed for their natural beauty and nature conservation values.
The additional theme will include a brief history of COSS; an explanation of the mechanisms that identified and enabled COSS, including but not limited to, Bonus Lot Provision, COSS Levy, COSS Committee and the voluntary acquisition process.
It will outline actions related to expanding COSS, protecting COSS lands and funding options that were independent of a reliance on biodiversity offsetting arrangements.
Cr Jane Smith said the significance of COSS had to be written into the document.
COSS is not just branding, she said.
She also said that the protection of environmental biodiversity could not rely solely on biodiversity offsets, but other mechanisms that focused on protection were also needed.
Cr Smith said it was a significant strategy, but council still hadn’t got the processes right and councillors needed a bit more time to discuss it with staff.
She said details such as adding a sentence addressing no net loss of biodiversity, and removing an action recommending the disposal of small parcels of Council owned land, details which were in the staff recommendation, would not be lost.
Her amendments were adopted unanimously.
The draft Biodiversity Strategy was on public exhibition for a period of 60 days between September to November 2019.
It attracted 144 submissions, 28 of which were unique submissions from those who had read the draft Strategy and made specific comment.
Staff said most respondents were individuals, who cared deeply about local environmental issues and six submissions came from industry and community groups.
The report said that the Coast has at least 83 distinct vegetation community types, each with its own unique suite of interacting species and ecological conditions.
The strategy said the Coast’s $874M tourism industry was dependent on high quality and functioning natural ecosystems as was human health and wellbeing.
“The indicative financial impact of implementing the actions in the policy not currently funded by Council’s general fund, or from external sources, was in the order of $650,000 per annum,” the report said.
However, there was the potential for other actions identified in the implementation plan to be funded via other sources and mechanisms.
“The acquisition of environmental lands, for example, could be funded by existing restricted reserve funds available for the acquisition of Coastal Open Space System lands and Clause 14 environmental land acquisition,” the report said, adding that about $9M was available in these two restricted funds.
The report said that the NSW Government’s Biodiversity Offset Scheme provided the potential to generate funds to implement several actions of the plan.
Council was working with the NSW Government’s Biodiversity Conservation Trust on the development of Biodiversity Stewardship Sites under the Biodiversity Offset Scheme.
“The potential exists to generate several million dollars for the on-going management of Biodiversity Stewardship sites established under the Biodiversity Offset Scheme, as well as to generate funds for the management of biodiversity actions elsewhere on the Central Coast,” the report said.
It mentioned that Council received submissions to an online Sustainability Survey that was undertaken in February/March 2019.
The results showed 80.29 percent of respondents thought biodiversity conservation, protection of native plants and animals, and ecosystem health was very important to the Central Coast, while 13.8 percent thought it somewhat important.
Council will hold a review meeting in July, and the draft report is expected to return to a Council meeting in September for adoption.
Meeting, Jun 22
Agenda Item 2.9
Central Coast Council
Reporter: Merilyn Vale