Public Access before the Ordinary Council meeting of June 12th saw three very strong representation presented to Councillors in regards to the proposed Rural Lands Strategy. Two speakers representing Coastwaters with Nature Coast Alliance and SHASA clearly indicated their dismay that Eurobodalla Shire Council is seeking to remove very important environmental protections from the rural landscape through its Rural Land Strategy Planning Proposal. They offered that in 2012 Council released a draft plan which was a visionary blueprint for the Shire’s future and included a number of conservation measures to protect our forests, rivers, wetlands and water catchments. At the centre of the debate is the E3 Environmental Management Zoning. Noel Plumb told the Beagle "This zone is for land where there are special ecological, scientific, cultural or aesthetic attributes or environmental hazards/processes that require careful consideration/management and for uses compatible with these values." Those protesting the Rural Land Strategy Proposal believe that Council has now responded to a small minority of residents and business people who are mainly large land holders and or property developers by removing the proposed protection of E3 zoning over a large area of rural land, some 38,000 ha.They suggest that in recognition of established usage, Council’s proposed E3 zoning allowed for grazing and some other rural activities and essentially replaced earlier, similar protective zonings under the 1987 LEP. Of concern is that the current Proposal removes the minimum lot size of 1000ha and allows significant subdivision. In an open letter those protesting the Proposal state “Council now intends to zone all this land as RU1 Primary Production or RU4 Primary Production Small Lots but with an Open Land Use Table – in other words anything goes. Large landholders and property developers stand to benefit while the broad community faces the inevitable clearing of forested rural land and the steady degradation of Eurobodalla from the Nature Coast to the Naked Coast. “Council’s Proposal also allows grazing without restriction in all E2 Environmental Conservation areas, some 4500 ha, including habitat for endangered species and sensitive wetlands.“Wetlands are vital to the clean water of the Shire for drinking, farming, oysters and fisheries as well as the survival of many water birds and countless other species that depend on the unpolluted and undisturbed wetlands. Cattle, horses, sheep, goats and pigs etc. must not be allowed to destroy our wetlands and clean water Noel Plumb offered “Council has dismissed significant objections to the Proposal by State agencies including the Rural Fire Service, the South East Local Land Services, the Department of Heritage and Environment, Department of Primary Industries – Water & Fisheries. “Many of Council’s changes are inconsistent with both advice from the agencies and Directions from the Minister for Planning. Council has also failed to consider the impact of forest clearing on climate change and the much weaker protection against land clearing under the new State laws that last year replaced the Native Vegetation Act." Those challenging Council’s Proposal want Council to withdraw the Proposal and review it together with expert State agencies and a genuine community advisory panel that is truly representative of the broad community, including several people with wide nature conservation experience. The third speaker presented the case for Councillors to very carefully consider the impact of the Proposal from the perspective of the local oyster industry. Local oyster farmer Kevin McAsh offered the councillors a bit of history in his preamble saying that the Clyde River has suffered siltation in the past from clearing and timber harvesting. "Fortunately 95% of the foreshore of the river is now either National Parks or Forestry. "The value of the industry in NSW has been acknowledged by the government with an Oyster Industry Sustainable Aquaculture Strategy and State Environmental Planning Policy 62. "In regards to water quality oysters need water quality to grow and the Clyde is a particularly clean river with an excellent Quality Assurance Program (QAP ), which means the river is open for direct harvest very quickly after a rain event. "The Food Authority who monitor the QAP, undertake regular auditing of the foreshores to determine if there are adverse impacts on oyster cultivation and harvesting. Mr McAsh warned councillors that allowing subdivision of land along the River will have an adverse affect on oyster production and that a land holder at North Batemans Bay had under scrubbed his steeply sloping block above a harvest lease and closed that area for harvest for two weeks. "The EPA where unable or unwilling to act on the unauthorized clearing, We needed local support .I was in Brisbane Waters last week . The water quality has been badly affected by the development around Brisbane Waters. "Port Macquarie is another example where farmers are struggling because of runoff and acid sulphate soils disturbed by subdivision.We need your help with maintaining water quality and this will not be achieved if subdivision is allowed on the river or it’s catchments. Trying to get the attention of mostly glassy eyed indifferent councillors Mr McAsh raised the volume of his voice asking "Why is this important?" "The Clyde has an export licence which will be jeopardized by foreshore development along the river.The Clyde River is the third largest producer in the State according to the Aquaculture Production Report 16-17 with a farm gate value of $5M. "The River is increasing production which will be adversely affected by a reduction in water quality .The result of increased production is more jobs in the Shire. "The Council has supported a hatchery in the Moruya River to support the local oyster farms and to increase job opportunities, however a hatchery requires quality water. "Further subdivision with adversely affect this project. "In regards to tourism, Councillors, on Sunday we hosted a international film crew of 12 from Fantastic TV Hong Kong (http://www.fantv.com) boasting 7 million viewers. "They/ were thrilled with the oysters which they ate directly from the river ,which they found to be astounding, but more than that they marvelled at the unspoilt nature of the river. "The value of the unspoilt nature of this part of the coast is valued by all who holiday here. We have beautiful rivers in this Shire which are productive and provide enjoyment to visitors because they are undeveloped. He ended his presentation with "This Rural Land Strategy will adversely affect both production of oysters and the unspoilt nature of our rivers and estuaries."
Above: ABC South East attended Tuesday's Council meeting and met up with the presenters and supporters in the foyer of the council's chambers. Photo provided by ABC SOUTH EAST - photo by Antigone Anagnostellis