Coastwatchers Respond to Local Environment Plan (LEP) Campaigns – April 4 2012

YOU have probably read leaflets, or articles and letters in the local paper criticising the Local Environment Plan (LEP) from groups such as Hands Off Our Homes (HOH) who are running campaigns to persuade the NSW government to reject the 2011 Draft LEP.

You may even have been asked to sign a petition.

Supporters of this campaign take the view that they have the right to build on or otherwise develop their land with almost no restriction.

They are focussed totally on the dollar value of their land without understanding the importance of their land in the wider context.

Drawing up an LEP is always going to be hard. It has to strike a balance between the interests of property development, environmental health and the public good of the community now and for the long-term future.

While Coastwatchers has concerns about the LEP, we do not agree with the views put forward by these groups, many of which are based on misinterpretation of the facts.

Planning constraints are there for good reason and need to be observed by all property owners.

Coastwatchers want to ensure environmental sustainability and biodiversity well-being in the Shire.

Subdivision of some rural areas is not in the interests of the environment or ratepayers. It is not a right of landowners, especially when land has been identified as important for protecting catchments and/or biodiversity; as unsuitable for development (eg vulnerable to flooding, extreme bushfires or coastal hazards); and/or as high quality agricultural land (necessary for future food security).

Eurobodalla needs more effective steps towards achieving enhanced environmental sustainability and securing better local food supplies for Eurobodalla now, let alone for possible increased local population and the needs of people further afield.

Facts supporting this view

Community wishes: The majority of residents and ratepayers want growth and development carefully planned and controlled so that it fits the character of the area and preserves the Shire’s environment(IRIS Research 2010, Eurobodalla Strategic Plan Community Engagement; Evolve Communities April 2011, Eurobodalla 2030 Deliberative Forums; Tourism Stakeholder Consultation Draft Report, August 2011).

NSW Government Requirements: Councils are required to ‘properly (manage) in a manner that is consistent with and promotes the principles of ecologically sustainable development’…’having regard for the long term and cumulative effects of its decisions.’ The NSW Local Government Act 1993).

The Principles explain that ‘Sustainability is the idea that future generations inherit a world at least as bountiful as the one we inhabit. ….environmental sustainability (includes) the protection of air, water, soils, energy, marine resources and other factors in the environment needed for biodiversity, including humanity, to live.’

Council mapping: Council was a leader in strategic planning and invested large sums of ratepayers’ dollars over several years to devise maps that clearly indicate the parts of the shire that are suitable for development and those that are environmentally sensitive and need to be protected. Application of these overlays to the LEP allows for agriculture or development in areas that are appropriately zoned for such uses.

Contrary to the wishes of the Hand off our Homes supporters, the mapped overlays should remain accessible to the public as part of the LEP so that every property owner knows where the sensitive areas are and manage their land accordingly.

Errors in mapping can be rectified by landowners giving permission for staff to access land to ground truth the mapping.

Biodiversity certification of land: this process has been established by the NSW government under Part 7A of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. It is designed to deliver better environmental outcomes from urban development, and provide greater certainty and reduce the time and cost of environmental assessment to private landholders and developers as well as local government. Areas of high conservation value are identified and protected, and any clearing or loss of other habitat is offset. Where certification is conferred for the specified area, it ‘switches off’ the requirement for individual Development Applications to address biodiversity issues.

Consequences of a successful “Hands off our Homes campaign”: Council has already taken the divergent views of Eurobodalla residents into account with consideration of the submissions to the 2009 Draft LEP. This community consultation process, even though less than ideal, may be overturned by self-interested elements at the eleventh hour and undermine the good of the whole Shire now and in the future.

What you can do?

It so happens that a large portion of our shire is made up of environmentally sensitive areas as defined by State government rules.

It also has a significant area of arable land important for producing our food.

If you disagree with the reasoning of the “Hands off our Homes” campaign it is important that you tell this to each of the Eurobodalla Shire Councillors, the General Manager and the Minister for Planning.

Sheila Monahan

Coastwatchers Association

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