THE fight to dismiss the current draft Local Environmental Plan (LEP) 2012 is heating up and opposition to what environmental advocates call 'the death of the local koala population's habitat', is gathering strength.
About 60 people representing around 30 community groups including ratepayers associations and environmental groups met at Murwillumbah's Imperial Hotel last Monday evening to discuss what can be done to ensure the draft LEP contains environmental protections to secure the future for the Tweed's koala population.
The meeting, which was organised by the Caldera Environment Centre and Team Koala, saw local solicitor Ian Ratcliff address the crowd and ask the question why work carried out by council and community groups over the last decades has been ignored in the current draft LEP.
Mr Ratcliff said the community had a strong position to call for a public hearing and demand answers.
"There are clear differences between the 2010 and 2012 draft LEPs.
"That the koala management plan is not incorporated as part of it, is likely to demonstrate that the LEP is not going to meet its legal requirements to protect koala habitat," Mr Ratcliff said.
Murwillumbah and Villages Cultural and Heritage Association (MVCHA) secretary Carolyn Pickering said the association was formed to raise awareness and to work to protect and maintain important culture and heritage in the shire.
"The association is backing the call for a public hearing and seeks the council to dismiss or delay the adoption of the current draft of the LEP until community concerns are addressed and the environmental protections are returned to the LEP," Ms Pickering said.
Tweed mayor Barry Longland said council had been put under a lot of pressure by the state government to finalise the LEP and although no environmental zone expansion was included in the current LEP on exhibition, there hadn't been any loss of environmental zones either.
Caldera Environment Centre coordinator Sam Dawson said the draft LEP 2012 did remove over 1200 hectares of bushland which was previously zoned for environmental protection.
Ms Pickering commented "the loss of planning protection for 1200 hectares of habitat is just wrong".