Farmers Brian Suffolk (left) and Fred Hoskins of Tucki are opposed to Lismore City Council’s draft Koala Plan of Management.
Farmers Brian Suffolk (left) and Fred Hoskins of Tucki are opposed to Lismore City Council’s draft Koala Plan of Management. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Farmers rail against koala plan

MACADAMIA farmer Brian Suffolk admits he is a big softie when it comes to the koala family that has made itself at home on his small property at Tucki.

But not so soft he wants to hand over large tracts of the family farm to the Crown to keep the koalas happy.

Mr Suffolk is among a number of landowners and two councillors who have objected to the draft Koala Plan of Management proposed by Lismore City Council to protect local koala populations.

The plan is now the subject of a rescission motion.

When Mr Suffolk bought his 6.745-hectare Tucki Rd property in 1978 it was "a lantana patch" with three trees growing on it.

Two decades later the farm boasts 1200 macadamia trees, about 200 eucalypts trees planted as wind-breakers and a family of koalas.

"I love koalas," Mr Suffolk said.

"But the council has got this wrong. Under the plan, our property, including the house, sheds, backyard and the whole macadamia plantation is classed as 'secondary A' habitat", he said.

"This is truly ridiculous. If we cleared an area as small as 0.8ha to develop, we would then be required to relinquish the right to our whole property under the 1:8 ratio.

"I can't afford to lose land to the Crown or council for koala habitat."

Nearby farmer Fred Hoskins agrees the council's plan would punish farmers.

"We like koalas and we plant trees for them ... but this plan penalises us for it," he said.

But council's manager of integrated planning, Steven Denize, yesterday said landowners would only be required to compensate if a development application was received that involved the loss of koala habitat, not macadamia trees.

"Should a landowner put in a development application for a small development ... that requires the removal of koala food trees, the landowner would be asked to plant koala food trees somewhere else on their property to compensate for the koala food trees being removed," Mr Denize said.

"If this is not feasible, council could assist by finding other suitable land, such as council reserves, on which to plant the trees."

Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass called for calm about the koala plan ahead of another meeting of the Stakeholder Reference Group tomorrow.

"Landowners, even horticulturalists who plant windbreaks, are extremely important to the conservation of koalas," Ms Vass said.

"Around 80% of koalas are on private land."

 

Do the farmers have a right to object? Leave a comment below.



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