Please make a submission - they close on Monday, 11 November, 2019.
Central Coast Council has recently exhibited a draft Biodiversity Strategy.
We note that there are many good actions in the document that staff have prepared. It is also a well presented document with lots of good information and illustrations.
However, CEN has concerns about the detail - and the devil is in the detail!
The Strategy will result in a nett loss of biodiversity, the replacement of the COSS Strategy (and loss of the term "COSS") and the "disposal" of public lands.
Some key points:
The vision (page 10) is "to maintain a healthy, connected, and socially just community that cherishes and protects our natural landscapes, and balances social and economic needs with the protection of the environment and its irreplaceable biodiversity.
We believe that the vision for a biodiversity strategy should be focused on protecting, maintaining and improving biodiversity - and the actions should ensure that there is "no nett loss of biodiversity"
Reliance on Offsetting
The strategy relies heavily on biodiversity offsetting - that is, allowing development to destroy biodiversity and "offset" that loss by protecting biodiversity elsewhere. We acknowledge that development will happen and there will be some vegetation loss - however, a biodiversity strategy should not rely as heavily on biodiversity loss to fund protection elsewhere.
Focus on Areas under threat - rather than protecting biodiversity
The Strategy focuses too heavily on "high priority areas" - rather than protection of biodiversity more generally
Strategy seeks to get rid of the term and concept of COSS
The Strategy effectively removes the concept of COSS (Coastal Open Space System). COSS is a long-term strategy that was started by Gosford Council over 35 years ago. COSS identified land for voluntary acquisition based on a set of criteria including scenic and catchment management values. The expansion of COSS was specifically identified as an action in the Central Coast Regional Plan 2036 and also Council's own Community Strategic Plan. This strategy replaces the term and concept of COSS!
Strategy wants to work with developers - but does little to recognise the community
The Strategy identifies "engaging the development industry" as a priority - but fails to acknowledge environment and community organisations that are working to protect biodiversity. This includes CEN's Land For Wildlife Program that is coordinated on a State wide basis - as well as a range of other groups on the Central Coast.
Land Disposal Plan - a public land sell off!
The strategy includes an action to "Develop and implement a Land Disposal Plan specifically for parts of natural assets with no biodiversity or recreational value (in order to generate income for the Central Coast Conservation Fund)". This suggests a public land sell off - not only of public land - but environmental lands and open space.
As a minimum, CEN is calling on Council to:
- Change the vision to include "protect, maintain and improve biodiversity with no nett loss of biodiversity
- include a Theme for COSS (Coastal Open Space System) - that is focused on expanding the COSS system and voluntary acquisition of lands including scenic and catchment values.
- Council should allocate an annual amount equivalent to the previous COSS levy ($0.00003 per rateable dollar) that is held in a restricted fund towards the acquisition and management of COSS lands. The COSS committee must continue.
- Delete the action relating to the development of a Land Disposal Strategy.
- Establish a Biodiversity Management Advisory Committee to oversee the implementation of the Biodiversity Strategy
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