Fear developers will take advantage of koala code
The Tweed Shire Council mayor has raised concerns developers may take advantage of a new koala code which could allow them to clear rural land preemptively.
The NSW Koala State Environmental Planning Policy 2021, which commenced on Wednesday, exempts most of rural New South Wales, except for "core rural zones" which fall under "new codes that protect koala habitat under the Local Land Services Act", expected to be developed over the next month.
Koalas in coastal areas of the Tweed and Byron shires are protected under the act, however the rural areas do not fall under the code.
Councillor Chris Cherry said at Thursday night's general meeting the Koala SEPP was made under the assumption there wasn't development pressure in the shire's rural areas, which she said was incorrect.
She cited the Nightcap village - a proposal of 400 houses - as an example of rural land development pressure.
"There are some perverse outcomes because of the lack of application to rural areas," Councillor Cherry said.
"If a developer were to want to do a development in the future they can clear the land under rural activities.
"It may lead to presumptive land clearing."
She asked other councillors to support her in calling on the state to include the rural areas under the koala protection code.
Councillor Katie Milne seconded the mayor's statements, criticising the state government for the lack of community consultation when preparing the SEPP.
"We commend (Geoff) Provest for advocating on our behalf to at least protect the koalas on the coast but there's a lot more areas where koalas live," councillor Milne said.
"80 per cent of the shire would be largely unprotected.
"That is distressing for people."
Councillor Pryce Allsop said he could not support the mayor's motion due to not having a full understanding of the proposal.
"I don't want to support it and have the community say to me 'how did you do this without looking into it?'," Councillor Allsop said.
"Whilst we all love and adore the koalas and want to have the best outcome, we need to be super mindful on the impacts of rural land areas.
"I need to know it's rock solid and we're not going to be pulling the pants down on someone."
Councillor James Owen threw his support behind the motion, making note of the community's love of koalas on social media.
"Whenever anyone puts a Facebook post up or an Instagram post about seeing a koala, people go nuts over it," councillor Owen said.
"If there are fatalities, equally people get sad about it."
Councillor Warren Polglase said the council should recognise the state member for advocating for the purchase of Lot 2 Clothiers Creek Road which is to be added to the Cudgen Nature Reserve.
All councillors but councillor Allsop voted in favour of the motion.