Pacific Highway rethink needed to preserve biodiversity and Aboriginal lands

A flawed environmental assessment of a Pacific Highway upgrade project puts already-threatened species at greater risk and could have an impact on protected Aboriginal lands, warns North Coast Greens MP Jan Barham.

“The proposed route for the highway upgrade between Broadwater and Coolgardie threatens the viability of two state and national vulnerable species and fragments Aboriginal protected lands, but there is a better alternative route available. I am calling on the Minister for Roads, Duncan Gay, to require a review of the proposal and its environmental assessment,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham noted that the construction and operation of the proposed route would likely fragment and isolate the region’s koala and long-nosed potoroo populations. Both species are listed as vulnerable on the NSW and Commonwealth threatened species registers.

Ms Barham also warned of the impact on protected Aboriginal land. “The Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council have a 1,000 hectare protected area that was primarily established because of its biodiversity value. The Land Council recently incorporated the long-nosed potoroo into its logo which signifies its cultural as well as its biodiversity value, and now that species, along with koalas and many other ecological communities and species could be placed at risk.”

“An alternative route is available that is 2.5 kilometres shorter, runs closer to the current alignment of the highway and poses a lower risk to biodiversity and protected lands, but the project’s assessment seems to have downplayed the problems with a route that had already been settled on.

“The ecological risk of the route being proposed by the Government has been identified by four experienced North Coast wildlife ecologists, and I urge the Minister to review the proposal in light of their concerns. A new, independent ecological assessment is required.

“The highway upgrades are a crucial issue to make travelling through the North Coast region safer, but it can be done while looking after our biodiversity and Aboriginal lands. I hope it won’t require another protracted debate to make the Government realise its plan for this section is inappropriate.”

Biodiversity Protection – the Gift for the Future

MEDIA RELEASE – 21 DECEMBER 2012

Make a submission by 24th Dec to protect Byron Shire & Regional Biodiversity

Greens MLC Jan Barham is appealing to the community to take the time to give a gift to the future by making a submission to the Byron Shire LEP and writing to the Minister for Planning to ensure that North Coast biodiversity is protected.

“It’s a busy time of year but taking 15mins to write a submission should be a priority for everyone. The Byron Shire is a biodiversity hot spot that is loved by many and it is at risk of not being protected for the future” said Jan Barham MLC.

“The Byron Shire Council, like all north coast councils, has a responsibility to protect, preserve and enhance our natural heritage and its Local Environmental Plans are the tool to achieve this. The State Government is the designer and approval authority for our future and local government is required to develop the document under the restrictive controls set by the state.

“The current LEP has been developed over the last 30 years and has embedded in it the lessons learnt from many court cases and the experience of years of proposals that have attempted to threaten the unique ecological status of the area.

“Council’s current draft LEP proposal which is on exhibition is a status quo document. It does not take away landowners’ current property rights, it attempts to enshrine the current protection of values and constraints to inappropriate development in a new style format.

“The State Government last month announced that it will review the LEP zoning provisions, E2 and E3 environmental zones in rural areas. There has been ongoing campaigning that has included misinformation about the implications of the new Standard Instrument LEP which has been dictated to local government by the State Government. The council, like many others has continued to raise concerns about the new planning process since it was announced in 2004.

“I am appealing to residents, visitors and all those who love and respect the ecological significance of the area; it’s time to do something tangible and engage with a very important process that will determine whether or not we can continue the strong history of stewardship over the significant treasure we live in and love, our biodiversity and its future. Take the time to write a submission to the Byron Shire LEP and write to the Minister for Planning and inform him of our desire to protect our biodiversity. If you love this area and the wonderful life it provides you then please, at this important time express yourself – this is when it counts” said Jan Barham MLC.

“Byron Shire has a long and proud history of biodiversity protection: it was the first LEP in the state to have environmental zones, the first to introduce Ecological Sustainable Development and has produced award winning outcomes with the Flora and Fauna Study, the Biodiversity Conservation Plan, the Byron Rural Settlement Strategy and has achieved outstanding projects like Land for Wildlife, Sustainable Greenprint for the Future and is in the process of finalising a Koala Management Plan. The Byron Shire also boasts significant State protected areas with National Parks, Nature Reserves and State Recreation Areas. The shire is a jewel in Australia’s natural wonderland.”

The information to assist with submission writing is available on the Byron Shire Council website – LEP submissions due by 24th December, and Save North Coast Nature website.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

Byron CSG rally video

Watch the video Sharon Shostak made about the CSG rally in Byron in Oct 2011. Jan was interviewed, along with Ian Cohen. Jeremy Buckingham’s staffer Justin Field spoke at the rally, which is included in the footage. Watch the video HERE.

Some photos were also taken on the day, follow the link to Jan’s Flickr page, or click HERE.

 

SEA CHANGE TASK FORCE ADJ

The Hon. JAN BARHAM

The term “sea change” describes the migration of people away from metropolitan areas and larger regional cities to high amenity coastal localities. For many it is a metaphorical change of life, rather than a literal movement to the sea. Although to date, much of the migration away from metropolitan centres has been focused on the coast. Some of those other population movements are known as a tree change. The move to the coast is not a recent phenomenon, with significant population flows to non-metropolitan coastal communities beginning in the late 1960s. In 2001 more than 85 per cent of Australians lived within 50 kilometres of the coastline. Approximately 20 per cent of Australians now live in coastal towns and cities other than capital cities. Much of the population growth along the coast has been within a three-kilometre strip, particularly in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.

Coastal communities around Australia are struggling to plan for rapid population growth driven by internal migration from metropolitan cities and inland areas. Increased population movements can present threats to the sensitive coastal areas to the environments, the coastal waters, dunes, wetlands and distinctive landscapes. Many coastal communities are surrounded by environments of national and international heritage importance, such as national parks, world heritage areas and increasingly marine protected areas. Those places are particularly vulnerable to inappropriate development that threatens biodiversity, cultural heritage sites, recreational and tourism values.

The social implications of sea change migration are also profound. In spite of new population growth, many non-metropolitan coastal communities are characterised by high levels of unemployment, lower than average household incomes and greater levels of socio-economic disadvantage, along with higher numbers of seniors than other parts of Australia. Therefore, producing ongoing housing stress, high unemployment and increasing population growth and development activity in these areas is not translating to long-term economic gains usually associated with population expansion. Social divisions are occurring between existing residents and newcomers and between wealthier, usually retiree, sea changers and those lower income groups who have been pushed out of expensive metropolitan areas.

Commonwealth, State and local policy and planning instruments addressing the sea change phenomenon focus on biophysical aspects, particularly environmental protection, and to a lesser degree, settlement structure and urban design. Social issues—such as building community cohesion, catering to the needs of ageing populations, housing affordability and cultural heritage—are not well addressed within the scope of current policy or planning instruments. This failure to integrate social and economic objectives and strategies within coastal policies and the land-use plans applying to coastal areas reflects broader difficulties associated with achieving the spectrum of sustainability goals. Given the evidence of social and economic disadvantage in sea change localities, and the likelihood that such disadvantage will continue without effective interventions, broadening coastal policy and planning processes to properly include social and economic dimensions is a priority.

In 2004 the National Sea Change Taskforce was established to represent regional coastal local government areas. This group has committed to fund significant research undertaken by the University of Sydney, Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning research centre. The taskforce holds annual conferences that bring together representatives from coastal councils, academics and interested community representatives to discuss these important issues. The Sea Change Taskforce has been instrumental in making submission to the State and Federal government inquiries and looks forward to the opportunity to comment in the current inquiry into barriers to effective climate change adaption of the Productivity Commission. The work of the Sea Change Taskforce is thoroughly supported by local government. The Hon. Paul Green and I have attended many of its conferences. We are very supportive of, and enjoy membership of, that group.

BYRON BAY EVENTS

The Hon. JAN BARHAM [6.05 p.m.]: Events portray a community’s character. They present the culture of an area and are an important contribution to the social capital. They can also make a significant contribution to the economy, especially in tourist areas. On 10 September I attended the inaugural Sample Food Festival at Bangalow in Byron shire. The organiser, Remy Tancred, assembled more than 100 of the region’s growers, producers, restaurateurs, and art and craft suppliers from the region for a festival that celebrated and displayed the abundance and creativity of the North Coast. The event attracted approximately 8,000 people, who sampled and purchased the best and freshest of the region.

This event highlights the support for sustainable agriculture and the benefits of fresh, fine food. I raise this event and its success in the context of how the region maintains its attraction and diversity as a sustainable destination. There has been recent media focus on Byron Shire Council’s seeking to retain a degree of control of its identity and proposing to limit the number of large music festivals held in the area. Byron shire is an iconic tourism and event destination. The challenge is how to maintain a quality of life for the community while being economically and socially diverse.

Local events such as the Bluesfest and the Splendour music festival have attracted wide acclaim. The council and the community have been proud to host those events and the council has adopted a policy to support the continuation of two major music events annually. The aims of that policy are to recognise the contribution that events make to the diverse character and culture of the shire, to encourage event organisers to promote events that recognise and contribute to the evolution of this character and culture, and to manage events so that they do not adversely impact on the existing character.

The diverse talents and interests of the area embrace a broad platform of expression that is reflected in the range of events that continue to evolve. Local events are as varied as the community. They include the very popular and successful writers festival, film festivals, a billycart derby, a classical music festival, a vintage event, a kites and bikes event, underwater and surf festivals, a harmony event, a comedy festival, the woodchip event, the Starlight Wellbeing Expo, a triathlon, art expos, the Mullum Music Festival, the Bluesfest and, in past years, Splendour in the Grass. This is in addition to the activities that are part and parcel of the peak tourism period and schoolies week. Organisers deliver an average of three significant events each month that attract visitors, local and regional residents, and many from the large Queensland population to the north, just an hour away, who come over the border to enjoy our cultural diversity and natural landscape.

The community supports a tourism focus, but one which respects the host community. The shire has a small population of fewer than 30,000 residents and a visitor population of more than 1.5 million. The proposed festival site at Yelgun, known as North Parklands, is the subject of an application to establish a dedicated event site to host multiple music events, not only the widely renowned Splendour festival. The application is currently awaiting determination by the Government under part 3A. An application for a trial event at the site was approved by the council but overturned by the court after an appeal was lodged by a community group.

The proponents then made an application to the State Government. The Government has said much about returning planning matters to the local level, but that did not happen on this occasion. The community’s and the council’s concerns about the potential environmental and social degradation caused by multiple music festivals have been articulated as has their desire to maintain a broad cultural diversity. The concern is that the area will be characterised as a party town. Already there is wide community concern about alcohol-fuelled events and antisocial behaviour and how these might deter people from visiting the area.

The Byron shire has been at the forefront of environmental protection and sustainable development for more than 30 years and it is its distinctive character that makes it so attractive to locals and visitors. The event limit is recognition of the need to consider the future rather than simply to let market forces take control and perhaps define and diminish the overall character of the town. The shire does not want to be known as a music festival destination alone. It has so much more to offer and it seeks to maintain and develop a diverse cultural character.

It is recognised that there are positives in terms of economic and cultural benefits from large music events, but there is also potential for impacts on the social amenity and the environment. The community is concerned that the rich cultural diversity is maintained and that space is provided for more local events to emerge and seek the support of the community. The events policy seeks to restrict the number of large events that operate in the shire to allow the community to continue to define what and how we reflect our cultural identity. The potential for approval of a site that increases the number of large music events in the shire would present the shire as a music festival hotspot, which is not a desired outcome for the community.

Young Farmers Association

It was a pleasure to meet with representatives of the Young Farmers Association.  The group raised issues about the future of farming in NSW and discussed concerns about coal seam gas, corporate buy up of farms and the loss of community.  The meeting also provided an opportunity to discuss areas of interest including the food security, the growth of the organic agriculture sector and the management of  biodiversity.  I informed them about the success on the far north coast of biodiversity and farming land management practices, community support for farmers markets and my experience of being on the Ministerial Advisory Council for Organic Agriculture.

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