Concerns over impact of LEP

THE ‘city-centric’ guidelines for Ballina Shire’s new local environmental plan (LEP) could have dev-astating consequences for important biodiversity areas, community groups have warned.

The draft LEP is on public exhibition until June 4. However, local groups are worried about how the plan will impact on Ballina’s unique environment.

The Ballina Environment Society (BES) is holding a forum next week, in conjunction with the Northern Rivers branch of the Environmental Defender’s Office.

BES spokesman Lee Andresen said it was about working out what was good and bad about the LEP.

One of their main concerns is that the State Government template only provides for three environmental protection zones.

“One of these (E1) virtually can’t be used because it is reserved for national parks and nature reserves,” Dr Andresen said.

“That leaves us with only two environmental zones.

“The problem is not that there is a template, but that there are too many limitations.

“It’s very city-centric. It’s based on what happens in Sydney.

“There aren’t enough zones to give the diversity that you need.”

Dr Andresen said in terms of protecting the environment, E2 was ‘practically meaningless’.

“No piece of bushland in the E2 zone is going to get the protection it deserves,” he said.

Ballina Shire Council says it does not have the power to give E2 areas a higher classification because of Government guidelines.

Dr Andresen agreed the council was ‘in a bind’, but also said it was ‘hiding behind the template’.

“Our argument is that the council is using these zones as an excuse for not doing enough to protect certain areas. It seems unwilling to test the limit,” he said.

Ballina Shire Mayor Phillip Silver also slammed the template, but said it was ‘unfair’ to criticise ‘hardworking council staff’.

“The template prescribes the definitions and permissible and prohibited uses in zones,” he said.

“I have concerns about it ... the solution is for the Government to give us more autonomy.

“This LEP template is a retrograde step in planning and I think local government has to burr up.

“People also need to keep in mind that the council has not adopted this document – the only resolution that we have made is to put it on public exhibition.”

Other mayors on the Northern Rivers said they had not yet come across any major problems with the LEP template.

Richmond Valley Mayor Col Sullivan said they were ‘very close’ to exhibiting their draft plan.

It is also hoped that Kyogle Council will have its LEP on public exhibition before the end of this year, Mayor Ross Brown said.

Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell said her council had recently obtained permission to put its draft LEP on public exhibition.

“On the whole, the State Government template has been good,” she said.

“There is a fair bit of flexibility in the zones and it’s not causing us any problems at this stage.

“But the public exhibitionperiod will highlight any issues.”

The forum being hosted by BES and EDO Northern Rivers will be held at the Richmond Room in Ballina on Wednesday, May 5, from 6pm. Phone the EDO on 6621 1113.

Other groups supporting the forum include Ballina Climate Action Network, Ballina Coastcare, Ballina Greens and Australian Seabird Rescue.



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