Brunswick Heads forum hears Public Lands are at risk

A community forum held in Brunswick Heads last week heard from a range of community representatives who highlighted how the mismanagement of public lands is at a desperate point that hasn’t been experienced for over 20 years, says Jan Barham, the North Coast Greens MP who hosted the event. Ballina MP Tamara Smith and Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson also took part in the meeting.

“It was shocking to hear from the representatives about the lack of community consultation and protection of our social, natural and economic environment. The meeting unanimously supported a call for a Parliamentary inquiry to review the current mismanagement of public lands,” Ms Barham said.

The forum heard presentations about coastal management, biodiversity, forests, Brunswick caravan parks and foreshores and Aboriginal land claims.

John Corkill, a former Coastal Council member outlined the state of play in relation to coastal protection and identified the lack of community input to the Byron Shire Councils move to build a rockwall at Belongil and called for the Government to intervene to prevent the works.

“Coastal crown lands are a priceless public recreational resource and they play host to many ecologically and economically important species, but the wrong policy settings for managing them in the face of climate change, by Government and local councils, can reduce their chances of survival, and adversely affect community use of these vital public open spaces,” said Mr Corkill.

Respected local ecologist, David Milledge, informed the meeting of the biodiversity value of the north coast and how current forestry practices are putting the survival of some species at risk, including devastating images of poor logging practices. Mr Milledge outlined the role of State Forests to protect biodiversity conservation under the Comprehensive Regional Agreements that were established 10 years ago designed to regulate the logging practices to protect soil, water and threatened species but are failing. State Forests provide crucial refugia for biodiversity, supporting core populations and in many cases linking to the protected National Parks and Nature Reserves on the north coast.

“The State Government’s rules designed to manage the unique values of our public forests are not being applied and have been virtually abandoned. Poor logging practices have meant a loss of biodiversity that includes, loss of habitat for hollow-dependent threatened species and prey species of apex predators and a loss of riparian species requiring stream buffers. It’s essential that a landscape approach to forestry management must incorporate independent pre-logging assessments and exclusion zones based on Threatened species models and post logging burning must be abandoned” said David Milledge.

North East Forest Alliance member Dailan Pugh acknowledged a major concern that the contracts issued 10 years ago overestimated wood supply and that the failure to enforce the regulations for environmental management has been a desperate attempt to deliver wood supply. He also showed dramatic images of poor logging practices that have resulted in the landscape devastation of Bell Miner Associated Dieback (BMAD) which is impacting not only on the State Forests but also on the protected reserve system.

“As sawlogs are being cut out due to intentional overlogging, our public forests are coming under increasing threat by those wanting to open up national parks for logging, grazing and shooting, and those wanting to clearfell State forests to feed them into furnaces to generate electricity under the pretense it is renewable energy” said Dailan Pugh.

“The State Government has not acted as a responsible land manager in responding to the breaches of forestry practices that have been brought to their attention by NEFA and their independent audits. The EPA has done little to protect the public lands even when evidence was provided. It is devastating that the loss of biodiversity is not regarded as a high priority and that the Forestry Commission operates as a rogue element due to the government’s negligence” said Jan Barham MLC.

The presentations regarding the mismanagement of Brunswick caravan parks and foreshores is a long running issue and now the dredging of the harbour has outraged the community. The meeting called for the return of the management of Brunswick Heads public lands to Byron Shire Council so it can comply with the adopted Brunwick Estuary and Tourism Management Plans and ensure the character of the low key seaside village is retained.

Brunswick Head Progress Association president, Leonie Bolt, outlined that the community did not support the current harbour and foreshore works.

“A Brunswick community meeting adopted a resolution that calls on the NSW Government to suspend the Plans of Management pending a review and investigation into the process of their preparation. The lack of regard for the community views puts at risk the character and future enjoyment of the Brunswick Heads village for residents and visitors. The dredging of the harbour has proceeded without the appropriate consultation with Aboriginal representative and has not clarified the long term management issues” said Ms Bolt.

“The lack of respect for Aboriginal people by not consulting about the Brunswick Heads river works is a disgrace. Additional disturbing issues about the impact of the dredging of the Brunswick harbour and river relating to the disturbance and disposal of contaminated sands on our beaches and the risks for the natural environment add to the litany of concerns about the mismanagement of public lands and justify the call for an inquiry” said Ms Barham.

Next week a forum in the Tweed will hear from representatives concerned about the transfer of a public reserve to Gold Coast airport and the potential destruction of key habitat that will impact on the fisheries of the Cobaki with the proposed airport extension. The resolution of outstanding Aboriginal land claims on the coast and the lack of care for Tweed biodiversity will also be presented.

South Tweed Community Centre – 10am, Saturday 29th August

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891