Councillor Vanessa Ekins
Councillor Vanessa Ekins

Koala plan not 'draconian': Ekins

LISMORE City Councillor Vanessa Ekins has refuted claims by two councillors that the council's draft koala management plan is "draconian".

Crs Graham Meineke and Neil Marks raised concerns in yesterday's Northern Star that under the proposed plan, land improved for koala habitat could be "acquired" by council or the Crown as a conservation reserve or dedicated as such under conservation agreements.

Cr Ekins dismissed the notion by saying that land designated as koala habitat was deemed so under state legislation and council was simply allowing land owners more flexibility while preserving an amount equivalent to the remaining habitat.

"In fact council is bending over backwards to allow development to occur by saying if you want to clear this habitat that is protected, then you can compensate for that loss by dedicating other areas of your property for koala conservation," she said.

"What we're saying here is if you want to demolish it, there are some other things we can negotiate."

Crs Meineke and Marks have put up a rescission motion to stall the plan going on public exhibition until after the next meeting in December, questioning the phrasing of certain sections.

Cr Meineke says he is not opposed to the plan as such, but believes there are too many ambiguities in the compensation section for him and Cr Marks to let it pass.

"As long as those measures in Appendix 2 that require you to hand over your land are watered down or whatever, then it certainly can work," he said.

The section reads: "There are three acceptable primary protection mechanisms: 1) transfer of land ownership to the Crown and/or Council for dedication as a conservation reserve; 2) dedication of land under a voluntary conservation agreement; and 3) positive covenants that impose a restriction on the use of the receiving land that bind the current and future owner of the land to manage the receiving land for conservation of its habitat values."

"To me, those three points say 'you've got to do these'," Cr Meineke said.

"I would suggest as a voluntary thing there would be very little chance of it happening ... to me it reads, if you are going to clear some koala habitat, then you've got to compensate by enhancing land elsewhere, and by the way, you've got to transfer it to the Crown or dedicate it or put a positive covenant on it."

Cr Ekins also questioned the seriousness of Crs Meineke and Marks objections, accusing them of playing politics by trying to stall the plan until the next election.


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