Since last September, Clarence Valley Council has been reviewing its 2010 Biodiversity Strategy, and recently placed it on public exhibition for comment.
As someone who participated in the development of that original Strategy, I undertook a critical review of that document to see if the aims and objectives, particularly relating to native vegetation, had been achieved, before making comments on the review.
Those objectives were to: “Protect areas of native vegetation: Reduce the loss of native vegetation to facilitate a net gain: Revegetate riparian zones: Encourage the protection and management of regrowth in identified corridors”, and “Educate the community on the benefits of biodiversity, and enforce legislation aimed at protecting native flora and fauna values”.
Sadly, I concluded they had not been met, particularly the enforcing of legislation.
There are some relatively uncontrollable external factors that have undoubtedly led to a net loss of vegetation, such as the massive destruction caused by the Pacific Highway relocation. However, Council did nothing to convince the Roads and Maritime Authority to change the route to either of two other less damaging options.
My cynicism is based on reality, as evidenced by the following example. The 2010 strategy acknowledged that “land clearing and fragmentation was the most important contributor, to the loss of habitat and decline of native species”, and recommended that: “Any removal of native vegetation, as part of a development application where clearing cannot be avoided, shall be offset to ensure a net gain in vegetation”.
With that strong statement in place, one has to ask why the largest single housing development to be approved, Iluka's Hickey Street project, went through with no off-sets required whatsoever, resulting in the net loss of 14 hectares of forest.
Regrettably, it's not the strategy that has failed to halt biodiversity decline, it is the failure of Council itself, from planners, through to elected councillors, very few of whom, it would appear, have ever read the document, and have little or no understanding of the critical need to protect biodiversity in order for humanity to survive.
- John Edwards