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Brunswick Heads News

Federal government says it cannot stop the Wallum development

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Wallum Development protest.

Federal government says it cannot stop the Wallum development

 

By Sarah Waters

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek says she will not intervene with the Wallum development, despite the growing opposition to it.

Save Wallum campaigners have continuously lobbied Minister Plibersek to call in the development as a controlled action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

To call in a development, means the minister will look at what is being proposed and determine if it needs to be assessed under the national environment law.

Wallum heathland, in Brunswick Heads, is regarded as highly significant ecological and cultural land.

Campaigners and local ecologists state its coastal lowland habitat supports a host of native flora and fauna, including nine federally listed threatened species.

Under the national environment law, or EPBC Act, threatened species are considered as Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES) which grants them protection.

But, in a statement, Ms Plibersek said the Wallum development was not a federal government matter.

“State governments and councils have always had primary responsibility for residential land use planning and approvals,” Ms Plibersek said.

“The Australian government is not able to stop the Wallum development, under national environment laws,” she said.

When questioned further, a spokesperson from Ms Plibersek’s office said there was no case before her to look at.

“Based on the advice she had been given from the federal environment department, there are currently no grounds for her to intervene in the development under national environment law.

“Developments only need to obtain approval from the federal government when they are likely to ‘significantly’ impact matters of national environmental significance,” they said.

Save Wallum campaigner and local ecologist James Barrie said he was surprised at the minister’s response, given protected matters were ‘definitely a federal issue.’

He also questioned what advice she was given to reach that decision.

Wallum Development protest.

The Save Wallum campaign continues to grow, despite the federal government recently announcing they won’t get involved. Image: Dee Merkel

Under the current national environment law, which is in the process of being reformed, it is up to the developer to refer their project to the federal environment department – if they think it needs further assessment.

Mr Barrie and other local ecologists have been critical of the developer’s ecological assessments, especially the survey methods which were used.

“They’ve downplayed the presence of Koalas, the Wallum Sedge Frog, the South-eastern Glossy Black Cockatoo and the Mitchell’s rainforest snail,” he said.

“You can’t go out there a handful of times and say there will be no significant impact on the threatened species at the development site.

“I’m here every day – they’re not.”

Mr Barrie said he spent hours at Wallum, in almost complete silence, to hear (and record) the call of a male Wallum Sedge Frog and found a population group that would be impacted by the development that Australian Wetland Consultancy (AWC) did not, despite their professional surveys.

It is usually too difficult to detect the Wallum Sedge Frog visually, due to their small size (2.5cm), incredible hiding ability and camouflage.

The males can be heard in breeding season if you’re there in the right weather, but the females make no call at all and are elusive even to experts, Mr Barrie said.

Threats to Wallum Sedge Frog populations are significant due to the large-scale destruction and damage to coastal wallum habitats.

Mr Barrie said lot of concerted effort has been put into the Save Wallum campaign and supporters weren’t simply going to accept that response from Minister Plibersek.

“These species are supposed to be protected under the law, the campaigners are there ready to uphold that, we’re not just going to step aside.”

He and the ever-growing number of supporters plan to continue to lobby the government and make sure the correct information is received and appropriate assessments and protections are enacted.

Clarence Property has strongly maintained it has been rigorous and thorough with all the required assessments.

Chief executive officer Simon Kennedy said there has been no request from the federal environment department to refer Wallum for their assessment, nor any suggestion from them that there are Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES) which require referral.

“Our ecologist team has prepared a highly detailed assessment of all possible matters and concluded that there are no requirements for referral,” Mr Kennedy said.

“This view has been corroborated by three further independent ecologist reviews of that assessment, all of which agreed with the findings.

“The suggestion that numerous Matters of National Environmental Significance will be impacted by the development is a fabrication which is not supported by site observations of the area to be developed.”

 

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Brunswick Heads News

Marine Rescue Brunswick granted region’s first remote controlled on-water life-saving device

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Marine Rescue Brunswick USafe

Marine Rescue Brunswick granted region’s first remote controlled on-water life-saving device

 

Marine Rescue Brunswick will bolster its rescue capability with a new state-of-the-art life-saving device after being awarded an Australian Government Stronger Communities Grant.

Marine Rescue NSW Northern Rivers Zone Duty Operations Manager John Murray said the Federal Government grant has aided the unit to purchase the Marine Rescue Northern Rivers region’s first ever USafe, a motorised remote controlled lifebuoy for rescue missions on local waterways including the Brunswick River, Simpsons Creek, Marshalls Creek and offshore.

“The USafe is a versatile and reliable piece of equipment that will assist our volunteers greatly in their mission of saving lives on the water.

“It is also reassuring for boaters, paddlers and swimmers who use our local waterways that this valuable tool is at the ready should they require assistance,” he said.

The USafe cost $14,000 with the Stronger Communities Grant contributing $10,000 and community donations funding the remainder.

“The financial support provided by the Australian Government and the local community to allow the unit to add a USafe to its rescue capability is greatly appreciated,” Mr Murray said.

Marine Rescue Brunswick Unit Commander Jonathan Wilcock said the USafe is operated by remote control and is a valuable life-saving tool for the Brunswick unit’s 76 volunteer members.

“The USafe will assist rescue crews in locations where we may not be able to get a vessel, like close to rocks or in shallow waters.

“This incredible piece of equipment can assist with recovering people in the water or getting a tow line to a disabled vessel in a challenging location.

“The device is easily transferable between the Brunswick unit’s rescue vessels and will be deployed when required to assist with a tasked mission.

“The USafe has a 300 metre working range and can transport up to 160kgs of buoyancy.

“It also features a variable speed motor so our rescue crews can approach a person gently or steer around hazards in the water,” Mr Wilcock said.

Volunteers at Marine Rescue Brunswick are currently undergoing training and familiarisation with a Marine Rescue NSW State Headquarters USafe device. Marine Rescue Brunswick is expected to take delivery of its own USafe in the coming weeks.

Marine Rescue NSW is a volunteer based not-for-profit professional organisation dedicated to keeping boaters safe on the water and supporting local communities.

 

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Brunswick Heads News

Council supports improving environmental and housing outcomes on Wallum development

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Wallum Development

Council supports improving environmental and housing outcomes on Wallum development

 

Last week Byron Shire Council passed a resolution in support of a negotiated outcome on the Wallum development at Brunswick Heads that aims to maximise environmental benefits, minimise the development footprint, and improve housing diversity and affordability.

Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon brought forward a Mayoral Minute to update the community, and Council, about recent negotiations with Clarence Property. He previewed a proposed site map of the Wallum development that was drafted following discussions between Clarence Property representatives, and Councillors Michael Lyon, Asren Pugh and Cate Coorey.

“These discussions explored ways to protect more of the environmental values of the site whilst improving the affordability of housing lots by shrinking the footprint of the development and reducing some of the lot sizes. The total development footprint would reduce from 12 to 11 hectares and increase the eastern buffer by 1.8 hectares,” Byron Shire Mayor, Michael Lyon said.

“This would allow for the different types of housing that are needed in Byron Shire, including smaller dwellings for singles, couples and empty nesters.”

The revised footprint also creates a larger buffer between the development and the most significant population of Wallum froglets, west of Simpsons Creek. This re-arrangement can save more than half of the scribbly gums, including all the oldest specimens in this eastern section.

Wallum Development Alternative Layout Proposal

Wallum Development Alternative Layout Proposal

“With an approval from the Northern Rivers Planning Panel, Clarence is not compelled to make any changes, nor is it in their interest financially. All that Cate, Asren and I could do was try to persuade them of the proposal’s overall merits,” Mayor Lyon said.

“Whilst some people are set against the developer of this site, to not talk to Clarence Property was not an option because there is no other way to get a better outcome and we have looked into all options. Most of us would rather see no development on this site, but sadly that’s not possible. I am happy that Clarence is taking us seriously and considering our proposed changes,” Cr Cate Coorey said.

“Unfortunately, our environmental laws are very weak when it comes to protecting precious endangered species. This site approval, for a much larger development footprint, was given over a decade ago and we look forward to the passing of the proposed Federal National Environment Laws currently under community consultation. We have seen examples, like at West Byron, where a negotiated outcome has meant a much better result for the environment than taking an all-ornothing approach. Let’s hope that the same can be achieved here,” Cr Asren Pugh said.

“I want to thank all of those involved in the discussions to date. The ecologists that have given their time, the staff from Clarence Property who came to our discussions in good faith and are, I believe, open to different ideas to resolve this issue and Cr Coorey and Cr Pugh who brought different perspectives to the discussion that were very important”, Mayor Lyon said.

“It needs to be recognised that Clarence have already reduced the development footprint significantly compared to the original approval in 2013 as part of the DA process. Clarence have undertaken to also consider this revised footprint in the context of the site constraints, and there are still many things to work through, however discussions have been positive so far and they have expressed openness to the concept,” Mayor Lyon said.

“I believe that with goodwill and a willingness to compromise from all stakeholders and the community, including those passionately campaigning, we can negotiate a better result for the environment and for housing diversity,” he said.

 

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Brunswick Heads News

Restoring Brunswick River Banks: Council Plants 5000 Native Species to Boost Biodiversity

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Brunswick River

Restoring Brunswick River Banks: Council Plants 5000 Native Species to Boost Biodiversity

 

A rejuvenation effort is underway along the banks of the Brunswick River in Mullumbimby, as Council embarks on a significant planting initiative. Over 5000 native plants are being carefully placed along a 2km stretch of Riverside Drive, spanning from Pine Ave to the Mullumbimby Showgrounds.

This ambitious project has been made possible through a $220,000 allocation from North Coast Local Land Services, specifically earmarked for addressing priority river erosion sites stemming from the Flood 2022 NSW Government funding. The planting endeavor aims not only to fortify the riverbanks against erosion but also to foster biodiversity and enhance the local ecosystem.

Dave Filipczyk, Council’s Team Leader in Bush Regeneration, expressed enthusiasm for the project’s potential impact. He highlighted the extensive efforts undertaken last year, which resulted in significant natural regeneration of native species following the removal of invasive weeds. Despite being situated in the heart of Mullumbimby, this stretch of the Brunswick River boasts an impressive diversity of 139 native species alongside 79 weed species.

The previous year’s activities included the removal of Camphor laurel and comprehensive bush regeneration, along with habitat enhancement measures. The current endeavour to plant 5000 new native specimens aims to further strengthen the riparian zone, providing crucial food and habitat resources for local flora and fauna. Additionally, it is anticipated that the initiative will contribute to improving water quality, benefiting aquatic life within the river ecosystem.

This initiative is part of Council’s broader “Bringing Back the Bruns” project, a comprehensive bush regeneration program encompassing the Brunswick River and its tributaries. Spearheaded by Council’s Bush Regeneration Team, this project underscores a commitment to environmental stewardship and the preservation of local ecosystems.

 

For more local Mullumbimby news, click here.

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