The Beagle invited Labor candidate Leanne Atkinson to offer her thoughts on the, as yet unsigned, Eurobodalla Rural Land Strategy Ms Atkinson responds: Let's be frank here: Labor is not anti-development, nor is it anti-Eurobodalla Shire Council, though you might have been misled about our concerns to the Eurobodalla rural lands strategy in its current form.
The strategy not only lacks community support -- more than half of all the submissions to council were opposed to it -- but it also lacks crucial endorsement from the likes of the Rural Fire Service (RFS) which holds serious reservations about the serious risk of bushfire in these rezoned areas. Did you know that on three occasions in 2015, 2016 and 2018, the NSW RFS lodged its objections with the council because dwelling entitlements in lots containing land already identified as bushfire prone continued to be included in the council's strategy. In fact, the RFS complained that despite joining council staff on numerous site inspections, making voluminous submissions, requesting a strategic bush fire study be undertaken (it was not and still has not been undertaken), and attending many council meetings, the plan remained unchanged. The RFS told the Council appointed committee that "the proposal (remains) largely unchanged from previous versions and has not addressed specific concerns identified by the NSW RFS". You'd think that after the terrible tragedy that was the Tathra and associated bushfire -- not in any way associated with the rural lands strategy, of course -- that the bushfire experts would be listened to. It's for this reason -- as well as concerns raised by five other respected and professional NSW agencies -- that a NSW Labor government would send this strategy back to council and ask that the issues raised in the hundreds of submissions opposed to it be addressed. This strategy was signed off by the council despite the many submissions from community organisations and individuals opposing it. Equally alarming is the silence and complicity of the Transport Minister and Bega MP, Andrew Constance. I know the community, local oyster growers, environmentalists, landholders, regional experts and agencies support my position because I have met with them throughout this entire period, both in my professional role working in tourism and regional development, as well as the Country Labor candidate for Bega in the 2019 NSW elections. Be assured: the repeated claims “it’s a done deal” and that no further action from the public will make any difference, holds no water. In fact, the changes require sign off by the Planning Minister and with the election just around the corner, there is plenty that can and must be done.
Community members tell me they are concerned the cumulative impact of this regional lands strategy, together with other proposed developments will adversely affect the pristine qualities of the nature coast. Just like the $2.2b stadium splurge, the Liberals and Nationals are once again ignoring the serious concerns of the community and now that it's happening in his own backyard, Andrew Constance is missing in action. When the Rural Fire Service, the Office of Environment and Heritage, and Local Land Services say this plan should not proceed, you cannot just stick your head in the sand – but that is exactly what the this Local Member is doing. Labor will actually listen to the experts, and work with them, the community, and the council to ensure the serious concerns with the current strategy are addressed. Once that is done, I would welcome it's sign off Feedback from communities must be taken seriously. If elected in a Daley Labor government, I would support the strategy the Eurobodalla Shire Council fully and thoroughly addresses both community and expert concerns.