Searching for truth in PHACS

IT is back to the drawing board for the architects of Coffs Harbour City Council’s controversial and ill-fated draft Priority Habitats and Corridors Strategy (PHACS).

A staggering 592 submissions were received when the draft strategy went on exhibition earlier this year and now council staff has been told to go back and ‘ground-truth’ key assumptions within it.

But council’s Director of Land Use, Health and Development Mark Salter denies the revisiting of the PHACS document amounts to an admission that council got the strategy wrong.

“The responses to the strategy showed that there was a lot of concern within the community, particularly in rural areas, that the aerial photography we relied on when drawing up the habitats and corridors was not accurate,” Mr Salter said.

“So what we’re going to do is have people on the ground to validate the aerial images we used and allay the concerns of residents.”

Mr Salter said council staff will work with employees of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water to do the ‘ground-truthing’.

He said landholders will be contacted shortly.

“The property inspections should start in August and take around three months.

“We are planning to have the ground surveys finished in November and then we will update the draft strategy and pass it on to councillors for their consideration.”

Mr Salter said the decision to conduct the ground surveys had not been foisted on council by the State Department of Planning (DoP) although in a letter to people who made submissions to the PHACS Mr Salter wrote that ‘following advice from the DoP it was determined to delay a decision on PHACS until further ground surveys had been undertaken to validate the vegetation layer and refine areas considered on high conservation value.

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