Bruce Thomas

Council to fix koala loophole

THE bureaucratic loophole that has seen 1900 hectares of core koala habitat on the Coffs Coast cleared since 2007 may soon be closed.

Yesterday, the Coffs Harbour City Council’s acting director of land use, health and development, Robert Percival, said a meeting had been arranged for February 17 between the council, the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, and the Department of Planning.

“There have been significant differences of opinion between DECCW and ourselves regarding the application of our koala plan of management and where it sits in the overall legal framework,” Mr Percival said.

“We thought our koala POM applied, but DECCW has been saying it doesn’t. There are clearly holes in the process and we need to get to the table and sort out where the differences are. We need to get back to the original intent of the plan, which is for the protection of koalas.”

He said the council’s koala plan of management had been prepared in consultation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (now part of DECCW) and the Department of Planning.

“We complied with all statutory processes required in the preparation of the document, which is part of our Coffs Harbour Local Environment Plan.”

DECCW says it has a schedule of councils listed in their State Environment Planning Policy for Koala Habitat (SEPP 44) and Coffs Harbour does not appear on it.

The department also says it is not aware of any advice from the council that logging approvals it has issued may have been illegal.

In a recent letter to the council from DECCW, the department said its priority now was to ensure the issue was resolved.



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