Green levy needs local backing

LISMORE COUNCIL is a step closer to introducing an environmental levy that would raise about $200,000 a year.

A council meeting last Tuesday agreed (seven to three) that the levy – part of a 3.77 rate increase – was needed.

But the council needs to convince the NSW Government that the community supports the increase before it can be introduced.

Council’s co-ordinator of environmental strategies, Nick Stephens, said if the levy was approved, council would develop a biodiversity strategy.

Mr Stephens said this meant auditing the native plants and animals in the council area, then coming up with a protection plan.

“We have never done a detailed fauna assessment, only some broad vegetation classifications,” he said.

“The vast majority of our biodiversity is on private land with a lesser percentage within our own council reserves and within other national park and state forest reserves.”

After the audit, the next step in the biodiversity strategy was identifying threats to fauna and flora, then coming up with plans to protect them.

The strategy could also help the council apply to the state and federal governments for more grants to protect threatened or endangered species.

Mr Stephens said council did what it could for the environment with limited resources.

“This really is about trying to secure long-term, consistent funding,” he said.

If the environmental strategy is approved the council also hopes to invest more in climate change adaption and mitigation, improve public transport and catchment management, and spend more on sustainable planning.

These projects would be undertaken over four years.

Other councils in the state with environmental levies have invested in specific projects, such as bush regeneration and land acquisition.

“Byron already has a biodiversity levy, but our levy is broader than that and can include more than protecting biodiversity,” he said

Mr Stephens said he hoped funds raised by the levy would also go towards projects like weed eradication and helping private landowners preserve remnant bushland.

“We’re hoping that we can return a lot of these funds back to the community, through grants to private landowners to assist them with environmental work on their property,” he said.

“We also have a major weed problem in this region and a lot of funds we hope to return back to the community, controlling weeds on their own property.

“Our focus is on projects.”

In Tuesday night’s council meeting papers prepared by the finance manager it was outlined that the environmental levy would also be used to:

  • Promote and encourage sustainability both within council and the wider community.
  • Develop the necessary strategies to effectively manage Lismore’s natural and social environment.
  • Maintain, restore, enhance and protect Lismore’s natural environment.
  • Mitigate and adapt to climate change including the utilisation of renewable energy sources.
  • Enhance the connectivity and resilience of the community.
  • Undertake research and monitoring to enhance the effectiveness of projects and provide new/innovative solutions to environmental challenges.

Lismore City Council plans to go the NSW Department of Local Government for permission to increase rates by 3.77 per cent (above the usual rate rise of about 3.5pc).

The rate increase will not be approved unless there widespread community support.

In February or March council will begin community consultation, which could include running focus groups and forums.

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