Council adopts Biodiversity Strategy

Grass tree post fire

No Government is doing enough to protect biodiversity, said Cr Jane Smith as she urged her fellow councilors to adopt a Biodiversity Strategy for the Central Coast.

Speaking at the September 28 meeting, Cr Smith quoted figures from the the World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Report 2020 which stated that almost 70 per cent of wildlife populations have been lost worldwide since 1970.

“I will also say how important this strategy is – what we hear a lot is how, as a society, we are sleep walking through some of these crises – those two crises being climate change and biodiversity loss,” Cr Smith said.

She had been instrumental in recent months to make sure the Coast’s COSS (Coastal Open Space System) was highlighted in the strategy.

“It has been a very torturous process and I appreciate and thank (staff) for accommodating what is something that is really important to many in our community – the COSS system – and including that as a separate theme in the document,” she said.

“Earlier today, there are international leaders making a pledge that is seeking to put wildlife and climate at the centre, at the heart of post pandemic economic recovery plans.

“That’s the kind of information that would be really great to provide to Cr Marquet – how essential and fundamental it is to protect our environment and our biodiversity as a core economic value – and what economic benefits it delivers to our region.”

Cr Troy Marquart had called the strategy full of gobbledegook and beautiful drawings but wanted to know the cost of implementing it.

“As soon as it’s environmental, the costs don’t matter,” he said.

In reply Cr Smith said she would also ask the staff to put together a value on those economic services that exist.

“There is a lot of literature about it and it would be good if some of our councillors developed an understanding of that,” she said.

“The flip side is that at all levels of government we are not doing enough to protect biodiversity.”

She said the Federal Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act had been condemned and was now being revised while at the State level current legislation had led to a 13-fold annual increase in land clearing since 2016.

“At our own level, as much as I know that many of our staff try to do good work, I don’t think our culture is really valuing our environment and biodiversity as it should – and certainly, as 15 councillors I don’t think that we are setting that culture the way that we should and I hope that will improve.”

The strategy was adopted despite Crs Marquart and Cr Greg Best voting against it.

The strategy shows about $9M sits in two funds reserved for the acquisition of environmental lands.

Expanding Council’s Conservation Estate is one of many goals, actions and targets of the strategy as is site management to rehabilitate degraded bushland and coastal ecosystems.

Council will prepare a biodiversity Education Plan to promote community appreciation of Council’s natural areas.

It will provide guidance for biodiversity management on private land with published guidelines for landowners.

It will prepare and publish a nature-based Recreational Strategy for Council’s natural areas including a policy on public access to natural areas.

The report includes a list of plant types in the Central Coast local government area that have been cleared by at least 70 per cent.

Another list identified 20 plant types which have less than 100 hectares remaining.

The strategy will identify, protect and restore high biodiversity valued land as part of future land use planning investigations.

Built into the strategy is the goal that all areas of Council administration have an understanding of the value of biodiversity and incorporate it into their responsibilities.

Merilyn Vale