Protesters arrive at the council chambers. Trevor Veale
Protesters arrive at the council chambers. Trevor Veale Trevor Veale

Habitats strategy delayed

EXISTING environmental zonings will be used to keep the Local Environment Plan process moving along in Coffs Harbour after resident reaction put a stone in the path of the Priority Habitats and Corridors Strategy (PHACS).

At Thursday’s Coffs Harbour City Council meeting, the second consultation PHACS draft was withdrawn from the agenda.

The mayor, Cr Keith Rhoades, said it had been withdrawn for several reasons on advice from the Department of Planning, to come back to council at a later date.

The council’s director of land use, health and development, Mark Salter, said the council had been advised late on Tuesday that the council could carry over the existing 7A environmental protection zoning into the LEP, as the PHACS may not be able to inform the LEP process.

Cr Rhoades said each council had only a narrow ‘window’ of time to submit its LEP to the NSW Government and failure to meet the deadline could have serious consequences for council. He pointed to Cessnock as an example.

As reported in The Sydney Morning Herald this week, Cessnock Council has been threatened with losing its planning powers and having a planning panel appointed to it by NSW Planning Minister Tony Kelly.

“My concerns relate to extensive delays in preparing a new (Cessnock) council-wide Local Environment Plan, the time taken to process important land releases and the inefficiency of council’s development assessment process,” Mr Kelly said.

“Some Cessnock residents and councillors have been prominent in successful action in the Land and Environment Court to block State Government approval for two large developments – at Huntlee and Catherine Hill Bay – they regard as poor planning.

Two Coffs Harbour residents, Leo Muller and Jeanette Jones, gave public addresses on PHACS and the Draft Open Space Strategy.

Mr Muller, a commercial peach and nectarine grower from Bonville, asked which land owners had been consulted on the PHACS document.

He said in spite of 506 submissions against the PHACS draft, after speaking with dozens of owners, none had gained a personal response from council.

Mr Muller said in his neighbourhood alone, six families would lose more than 27 hectares of land, of which more than 90 per cent had no native vegetation at all.

He said farmers regarded their land as their superannuation.

Mr Muller said Coffs Harbour already had more than 60 per cent native vegetation and he questioned why it was necessary to increase this by 10,000 hectares when Tweed Shire had reduced its native vegetation zone by 1500 ha.

Council’s environmental officers have repeatedly said the draft PHACS would not impose any additional restrictions on landholders, nor would they be required to re-vegetate or fence off environmental protection areas, unless they chose.

Mrs Jones called for council to commission a report on the draft PHACS by a qualified rural economist.

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