Whither COSS, the hallmark of the Central Coast?

View from Rumbalara Reserve, one of many assets that are part of COSS. Archive 2015

[Forum] In the wider city of Gosford, I know that, in most places, I can look at the green horizons and know how precious they are to the Central Coast.

Gosford, and the area formerly identified as the Local Government Area (LGA) of Gosford, is possibly the only city in the nation to have such advantage.

This didn’t come about by accident.

More than 30 years ago an inspiring employee of Gosford City Council came up with the idea of the Coastal Open Space Scheme (COSS).

Championed by a number of people such as Malcolm Brookes, Robert Bell, Peter Wilson, Brian McGowan and others at the time, Gosford City Council put the scheme into action.

It was, and probably still is, the only such scheme in Australia.

The scheme saw a levy placed on ratepayers to establish a fund to buy and maintain land within the then LGA.

This land was to be heritage land – land which held significant flora and fauna value, and Aboriginal value.

Over the years, Gosford Council acquired a number of sites to be maintained and protected for future generations.

Current residents can visit these sites, and we all see some of the sites just by looking around at those green horizons which surround us in many parts of the LGA.

Together with the national parks, they offer us a heritage and a future unlike any in Australia.

The levy raised by Gosford Council was used, as stated previously, to acquire and maintain valued heritage land.

There were certain requirements set out to determine which land was acquired, and Council made those decisions.

COSS had its own budget and did not impact on the general budget.

In my 12 years (as a councillor) on Gosford Council, we discussed many issues around COSS, and it was obvious that most councillors and senior officers were committed to the scheme.

A significant problem was trying to zone the COSS lands.

The State Government wanted councils to revisit zoning within the LGAs, but because COSS is so unique, it didn’t fit into the zones set out by the State Government.

Council at the time tried to convince the State Government to establish a special zoning for our COSS lands, but the government wouldn’t allow it.

Despite that, other councils had been allowed to establish special zonings for special reasons.

For example, North Sydney was allowed a special business zoning.

During the last (term of) Gosford Council, the COSS levy came to a close and a decision was made to close the COSS budget and transfer the money into general revenue.

Throughout the state, at that time, there was a political push for councils to save money (the amalgamations were coming!).

Gosford’s decision to hand COSS money over to the general revenue could be seen as part of the tightening of the belts.

And that is where my knowledge of activities around COSS ends.

Is heritage land still being purchased on our behalf?

Are the current COSS lands being properly maintained?

Are the lands being protected from illegal use?

How is COSS being budgeted for given that it had its funding thrown into the general revenue?

Given that we have new councillors and new staff over the last few years, what do they know about COSS?

And what do they know about the passion around COSS?

How often do current councillors receive reports on COSS?

How has COSS been included into the policies of the amalgamated council (given that most of Gosford Council’s policies disappeared in favour of Wyong Council’s policies)?

What is the future of COSS?

September is supposed to include COSS Week in council’s calendar.

It would be an ideal time to highlight the wonders of COSS to the general public, many of whom are unaware of it, and to bring us up to date.

Is council planning on celebrating this unique and wonderful gift that previous enthusiasts planned and purchased and nursed for us and future residents?

Email, Aug 26
V. Scott, Narara