From the mayor’s desk

NORTH COAST TOURISM AWARDS

It was great to hear that Bellingen Shire had two category winners at the annual North Coast Tourism Awards held in Coffs Harbour last week. Congratulations to Riverside Holiday Resort at Urunga who took out gold in the Self-contained Accommodation category and the Heritage Hotel Motel in Dorrigo winners in the Standard Accommodation category.  Covering an area between the Great Lakes region to the Tweed, the awards were co-produced by the NSW Business Chamber, Destination North Coast and Destination Coffs Coast to recognise outstanding achievements in the tourism sector.

Both businesses are worthy winners with the Riverside Holiday Resort embracing the accessible tourism market and the Heritage Motel offering a high standard while renovating the historic building.  We wish them well as they progress to the NSW State Tourism Awards and if successful, the Australian Tourism Awards.

BIODIVERSITY LEGISLATION

Last week councillors attended a workshop on the new NSW Biodiversity Reforms which explained the changes to the legislation and what impact this would have on local government. For the Bellingen Shire this legislation is very important as we do live in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world and the natural living environment is something that is highly valued by our residents.

These changes set out a mechanism for landholders, land managers and local councils to determine and assess what they can do on their land if areas of high conservation or biodiversity are found on these properties.  It also discussed the triggers that would indicate a more thorough assessment is needed before any development or vegetation clearing on that land can occur.

It also explained the idea of offsets and how they would work. In a nutshell, any unavoidable impacts are assigned a credit value, which must be offset before any works can commence. Offset requirements can be met by establishing stewardship sites on the property, purchasing credits available from other registered stewardship sites or paying the Biodiversity Conservation Trust, which then uses the funds to establish stewardship sites.  The legislation and processes are complex and I must admit the concept of being able to pay for offsets and trade biodiversity values did not sit well with me. In response to councillors’ questions, it was also explained that different legislation applies to State Forests and land being logged in a Private Native Forestry Plan, which I think means the protection mechanisms of the reforms are at best piecemeal.

Only applying the reforms to some areas and excluding other large areas of our shire seems to be totally counterintuitive to what these reforms say they are trying to achieve. Surely to be effective these reforms should apply to all land in NSW if we are serious about addressing the alarming decline in our biodiversity.  If you have further questions about this process you could contact lmbc.support@environment.nsw.gov.au

Cr Dominic King

2 August 2018