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The Money or the Koala, by John Jeayes

I WAS just appalled to read that Kempsey Shire mayor John Bowell could see economic and social benefits through houses being built at Goolawah Estate – but could see no environmental consequences.

The mayor listed the Recommendation Implications in a mayoral minute on the assessment of Minister Tony Kelly’s declared intention to develop Goolawah Estate Sects 3-5 (Stage 2). The Environmental Implication listed is ‘Nil’.

I thought it was obvious the mayor and the Environmental Services Department were fully aware of the previous intention to rezone the area to Environmental Protection.

Cr Bowell had expressed his belief to Mr Kelly’s advisor that he believed the subdivision was not to go ahead.

I worked on Council’s Ecologically Sustainable Development Policy for months but it was obviously a waste of time.

There was supposed to be a triple bottom line assessment of anything put up to council.

How on earth Cr Bowell’s mayoral minute proclaims there will be no environmental implications in clearing a forest containing an Endangered Ecological Community (EEC) is beyond me.

Anyone who has read the reports by Kendall and Kendall and the Department of Lands’ own “threatened species” report would realise that in that forest there is an Endangered Ecological Community (Swamp Sclerophyll Forest), Core Koala Habitat, Glossy Black Cockatoo habitat and several threatened species of bats.

It just makes you wonder why Kempsey Shire Council continually publishes notices of its open and transparent public communication policy when not even the councillors are told there will be very serious environmental consequences to clearing a forest of any type, let alone this particular forest with such high conservation value.

Last time I wrote about KSC’s draft Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management and wrote about the fine qualities in some of the staff and consultants’ planning.

But what good is it to design all these wonderful policies if you don’t pay any attention to them in real life?

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2 Responses

  1. There will be environmental consequences in destroying this forest.
    And this is not settled yet.
    The Minister’s adviser was unaware (incredibly) of an earlier determination by Lands Taree that the area was never to be developed.
    Similarly Lands Taree had no idea the Minister was about to announce the subdivision.
    I have in my possession an assurance from Lands Taree that in 2008 the State Government was arguing the land was not going to be developed and cannot be developed due to the Endangered Ecological Community, and that irrespective of what happens with council’s zoning the next stage is dead.
    However, it seems then that the Government had to settle the Dunghutti native title claim at the value of the original development application, and now they want to make their money back and then some.
    If you were conservative and reckoned the 80 blocks would reach say $250,000 per block that is a nice $20 million to fill up part of the hole in Labor’s treasury. That might be too much temptation.
    All that lovely rate money and developer contributions have also got our council salivating, no doubt.
    This second stage of Goolawah Estate has some interesting history. It began with the lodgement by Mary Lou Buck of a native title claim on behalf of the Dunghutti for that land, and a stop on development after the Lands Department auctioned off Stage 1 Sections 1-2.
    The claim was eventually settled in the Dunghutti’s favour.
    Then ensued a court battle between the Dunghutti Elders and the Kempsey Land Council with the Elders eventually being declared by the court to be the rightful representatives of the traditional owners.
    While this was going on Stage 2 just sat there doing its thing – growing its biodiversity.
    The Lands Department originally commissioned an ecological consultant company called Wildthing which did an environmental study of the land known as Goolawah Estate Stage 2 sections 3-5.
    Wildthing found there was no significant impediment to a subdivision of about 93 housing lots.

    The Crescent Head Ratepayers and Residents Association considered that result outrageous and commissioned Kendall and Kendall to do an environmental report.
    Kendalls found there was potential koala habitat, glossy black cockatoo habitat and the greater broad-nosed bat using the area.
    So Lands then commissioned an ecologist, Ben Lewis, to do a “threatened species” study. There is no such named study but that is what they called it. Lewis confirmed Kendall and Kendall’s results and added sightings of koala to the list.
    Later the Ratepayers proved core koala habitat with video, photos and a statutory declaration from a nearby resident of a female koala with a joey on her back crossing Baker Dve into the forest at Goolawah Estate.
    After that the Taree Department of Lands threw up their hands and gave up any intention of going ahead with the development.
    Lands advised KSC that they would not proceed, as stated by Robert Pitt in his report to Council on the August 12, 2008, and wished the council to rezone the land to Environmental Protection.
    Lands agreed in compensation to consider rezoning land further to the south (presumably the proposed subdivision for the northern section of Killuke Mountain at the base).
    Oh yes, for those carping on about the need for “jobs for our kids” and for 1000 more people in Crescent Head, there is cleared land all around Crescent Head.
    However, Mr Pitt explained that Lands had advised later that rezoning was premature.
    Now we understand why.
    The land at Goolawah estate Stage 2 had been incorporated within the Draft Maria River Regional Crown Reserve and outside the Draft Mid North Coast Regional Planning Strategy.
    My inquiries so far have revealed that the land has crept back into the Planning Strategy as future urban expansion, and the map is covered with black dots indicating environmental constraints
    Last Thursday with Alan Gill of Crescent Head we were doing a bird survey in the land at Stage 2 when I discovered a very large male koala. Of course I named him Anthony.
    The poor thing is there not knowing what the humans with the power over his life and environment are planning in this International Year of Biodiversity 2010.
    I wonder what Minister Tony Kelly will decide. Does State Labor need money so desperately it will clear fell a forest with such incredible conservation value?
    What is it to be, Mr Kelly? The money or the koala?

  2. If you would like to help save this forest please take the time to write to:

    Goolawah Estate Contacts

    Michael O’Brien
    Advisor to Tony Kelly MLC Minister for Planning
    Minister for Infrastructure,Minister for Lands
    Deputy Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council
    Leader of the House in the Legislative Council

    Michael.O’Brien@lpma.nsw.gov.au
    Phone: (02) 9228 3999
    Fax: 9228 3988

    Sharon Armstrong
    Tony Kelly, Private Secretary
    sharon.armstrong@lpma.nsw.gov.au

    Andrew Stoner Leader of the NSW Nats and member for Oxley

    “Andrew Stoner”
    Phone: 65626190
    Fax: 65631355

    Rob Oakeshott MP Independent Fed member for Lyne(which includes Crescent Head)
    robert.oakeshott.mp@aph.gov.au
    Phone: 65842911
    Garth.Norris@aph.gov.au (advisor)

    Ian Cohen MLC Greens-north coast enviro etc

    “Ian Cohen”
    Phone: 9230 2204

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