Koalas in the firing line

CONSERVATIONIST Dr Allan Lloyd agrees the long-drawn out saga over Jim Dunlop's proposed Red Hill subdivision has seen 'a series of errors'. But he says those errors have been on both Coffs Harbour City Council 's and Mr Dunlop's side. Mr Dunlop is trying to overturn council's 2004 rejection of his 2003 development application for a three block conservation subdivision of his 25ha Red Hill property.

The proposal has so far been twice approved and three times rejected. Dr Lloyd, a former member of the Advisory Council to the Minister for the Environment and a life member of Coffs Harbour's Ulitarra Society, has followed with interest the saga of Jim Dunlop's efforts to subdivide his land. Dr Lloyd said the subdivision would not provide any environmental benefit and had been extensively debated in council. "The only benefit of subdivision would be financial," Dr Lloyd said. On Friday the Land and Environment Court agreed to hear Mr Dunlop's case, denying Coffs Harbour City Council's application to dismiss the case on the grounds that it lacked merit. Dr Lloyd said in attempting on Friday to head off Mr Dunlop's action over the proposed subdivision in the Land and Environment Court, the council had been doing nothing sinister, but had simply been trying to save ratepayers the expense of the court case. "It is a magnificent bit of koala habitat and there is no reason why he can't sell it. A 25ha lot with rainforest would be very attractive to a buyer, " he said. Dr Lloyd said Mr Dunlop's proposed covenants on the land would not protect wildlife in the long term, as new buyers would move in and ignore them. "Koalas need a minimum of five hectares per koala and a great variety of trees. If this land is subdivided there will be problems ? people would want to clear the boundaries and house sites in case of fire and introduce dogs as part of rural life." Mr Dunlop and his agent Gordon Jockel say the subdivision proposes to use the offset principle to provide environmental protection for koalas and other wildlife on the land at no expense to the public. Ron Smith, the president of the Ulitarra Conservation Society, said the property, like another privately-owned block which adjoins it, was the best koala habitat in the district and the best solution would be to add it to the adjacent Red Hill Flora Reserve, which did not have such abundant stands of tallowwood trees. He said the price Mr Dunlop paid for his land would have reflected the environmental constraints on it and he would have known these at the time he bought it. Coffs Harbour ratepayers will now foot the bill for the long argument over the land to continue in the Land and Environment Court in June.

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