After 20 years of buck passing between three levels of Government, Redlands is on the verge of a koala free landscape. Successive councils, councillors and State and Federal members of parliament can all share in this sad legacy.
Yet the community has long argued that koalas are a priority, saying: “Koala habitats are to be protected and new habitat areas established to support the dietary requirements and roaming nature of bushland and urban koalas.” in the Redlands Community Plan adopted in 2010.
That’s what the community wanted in 2010, it was emphatic and definitive. But since 2010 Redlands koala habitats have been devastated and the local koala population faces extinction.
Action is needed NOW from our elected representatives. Elected councillors and MPs who do nothing, say it’s not their problem, or call for another report are condemning more koalas to death. To let these people know how you feel, refer to the end of this post for Community actions.
Steven Miles, Minister for Environment recently said:
I think it’s time for an honest conversation with policymakers but also the public about what we think it will take to protect koalas. “The alternative is doing what other governments have done, proclaim a solution then realise it’s not working. We need to determine some new action and it’s very much our intention to begin that in months not years.
We shouldn’t have to wait months for governments and the Redland City Council to conserve koala habitat.
Goodbye Blinkey Bill
In even simpler terms it is almost “Goodbye Blinkey Bill”
The Minister’s expert panel approach looks like more talk than action but he did say “the koalas are disappearing as we speak. We need not just more analysis – we need stronger laws to stop the bulldozers.”
While the State Government and the Federal Government should be condemned for solutions that haven’t work, so too should Redland City Council. Since the alarm bells started ringing in about 1996, Redland Councils have stood by and watched the demise of koalas. Local laws and the Redland Planning Scheme need to get tough and stand up for the protection of koalas and koala habitat.
Does the draft City Plan protect koalas?
Given the Redlands community rates koalas highly shouldn’t the draft City Plan be establishing a clear policy and planning framework that delivers certainty in favour of koalas? The Draft City Plan should be delivering on the aspirations of the community Plan. Instead the koalas are an afterthought in the Strategic Framework with the only mention being “the Redlands’ natural areas facilitate the conservation of biodiversity and habitat for wildlife (including the koala)” see draft City Plan Section 3.5 Theme: environment and heritage. That is it! There is no mention of (koala) protection and no mention of new (koala) habitat areas.
The Draft City Plan 2015 is likely to deliver worse outcomes for koalas than the existing Redlands Planning Scheme. Progress in planning seems geared to the extinction of Redlands’ koalas.
The Community response to the draft City Plan shows an overwhelming community concerns with over 6,400 people “saying NO to the draft City Plan” Among criticism of the draft City Plan was the massive expansion of the urban footprint and “our koalas gone”.
Concerns that the draft City Plan could devastate Redland koalas were already reported and the latest reports confirm that scenario. Cynically, some local wags have observed, that local extinction of koalas will help “put Redlands on the map!”
Clearly, the Draft City Plan was rejected by huge numbers of people and it is an inadequate response to aspirations of the Community Plan and the the plight of koalas in the recent report or Minister Miles call for “stronger laws to stop the bulldozers”.
Federal Government action – a Koala Protection Act
Buck passing between the three levels of Government is the way for complaints to local politicians.
Yet the Federal Government is the key ‘custodian’ of the koala. Not zoos, not international zoos, not wildlife sanctuaries, not the average Australian, but our Government.
The American Bald Eagle suffered a similar population decline (to koalas) until in 1940 the American Congress took decisive action and passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act. This gave the Bald Eagle protection nationally.
Koalas deserve similar protection. Council (and voters) should lobby all candidates for the seat of Bowman for their commitment to a national approach to the protection of koalas and a Koala Protection Act. This simple step is needed now and would augment local initiatives and a better deal for koalas in the review of the planning scheme.
Clearing “Koala habitat” in the draft City Plan?
Tree clearing rules proposed in the Draft City Plan would allow unprecedented environmental harm in the Redlands. The Koala Action Group has said:
One of the worst aspects of this plan is its proposal to permit ‘as of right’ clearing thresholds across all areas of Redland City.
The proposed rules (in Draft City Plan 2015) compare poorly with both the current Redlands Planning Scheme and the Brisbane City Council’s City Plan 2014. Brisbane City Council does not have tree clearing exemptions/allowances in their City Plan like those proposed in Redlands City Plan. Brisbane has a tight, prescriptive local law that works alongside their City Plan to provide effective vegetation protection.
Clearing exemptions/allowances may be suitable for areas like western Queensland, but they are not suitable for Redlands, an area of high biodiversity, declining koala population and development pressures. Clearing exemptions mean Council forfeits its right to have input on where and how clearing occurs and will lead to unchecked clearing of endangered ecosystems/plants, habitat trees important to wildlife and up to/alongside waterways. It also means koala habitat is lost.
Redlands natural environment is special and deserves at least an equivalent level of protection as Brisbane City Council. Therefore, Redland City Council’s Local Law 6 – Protection of Vegetation needs to be improved and be the primary mechanism for tree protection working alongside the current planning scheme and any new City Plan.
The following table compares proposed tree protection measures provisions of the Redland City Council’s draft City Plan 2015 compared to the Brisbane City Council’s City Plan 2014.
|Draft Redland City Plan 2015||Brisbane City Council – City Plan 2014|
|Vegetation protection laws||
The City Plan will become the mechanism for vegetation
protection – Local Law 6, Protection of Vegetation will become obsolete.
They have a Natural Assets Local Law that works alongside the
City Plan to provide a high level of vegetation protection
|Tree protection in urban footprint area||
No tree protection at all on properties less than 2000m2 (1/2 acre) zoned Low
Density Residential – this is most of the urban area.
|The Natural Assets Local Law protects all mapped native vegetation|
|Tree clearing allowances/exemptions||Tree clearing up to:
is exempt/allowable – no Council approval is required.
These exemptions mean Council has no input on where and how the clearing occurs
There are no blanket tree clearing allowances/exemptions in the City Plan.
The Natural Assets Local Law has tight, prescriptive rules. For example, trees
that are within 3 metres of a property boundary and are smaller than 20cm in diameter
at 1m above the ground are exempt
|Acreages and farms outside the urban footprint||
All private properties are simplistically zoned Rural. The main purpose of this zone is to allow for primary production activities and offers little protection of the natural environment.
No council approval is needed for cropping, animal husbandry, animal keeping (except kennels/catteries) and up to 2 dwellings in the Rural Zone.
This is likely to impact on the lifestyle and biodiversity of small acreage communities
Acreages in areas like Chandler are zoned Environmental Management and/or Conservation to protect the biodiversity values and to retain the small acreage lifestyle.
Only rural farmland areas are zoned Rural to allow primary production activities.
|Significant tree protection||There are seven tree listings on the Heritage Schedule||A Significant Landscape Tree Overlay maps and protects hundreds of trees. These are in addition to trees protected by Vegetation Protection Orders|
What is needed?
Koala friendly and responsible vegetation management needs to
- ensure the current Local Law 6 – Protection of Vegetation is more prescriptive and integrated into the new City Plan.
- incorporate a Significant Landscape Tree Overlay into the City Plan like Brisbane City Council has done.
- include strategic wildlife corridors with enhancement areas in the City Plan. Include Biodiversity Corridors and Koala Corridors on the Environmental Significance Overlay map as Logan City Council has done with their Biodiversity Areas Overlay.
- ensure provisions which allow unlimited tree clearing on urban blocks less than 2,000m2 (½ acre) need to be removed.
- include provisions which allow clearing of up to 2,500m2 on rural properties need to be removed.
- include provisions which allow clearing of up to 500m2 on blocks over 2000m2 (½ acre) in the urban footprint need to be removed.
- note that trees that are not covered by the Environmental Significance Overlay have no protection at all. Significant trees that fall outside of the overlay need protecting. These trees can be important ‘stepping stone’ trees for koalas and add to the amenity and character of the Redlands.
- ensure the Environmental Protection Zone and Conservation Zones should be carried forward from the current Planning Scheme. The blanket Rural zoning for all private property outside the urban footprint does not effectively reflect the varying land uses and environmental values. Permissible land uses in the Rural zoning are intended for large cleared farmland, not small lifestyle acreages like those in Sheldon and Mount Cotton.
- review the Environmental Significance Overlay performance outcomes as the wording is loose and open to interpretation. The wording needs to be more definitive to be effective in achieving positive environmental outcomes.
- maintain that vegetation clearing associated with development is assessed by Council as part of the development application. In the draft City Plan 2015 it is proposed to be assessed as operational works which will lead to unnecessary loss of vegetation.
- Lobby Redland City Councillors, they need to know what you think. The landslide of submissions on City Plan, already before Council, need to be amplified for each and every Councillor. Send this post (from the “envelop” link at the top of this page) on to your local Councillor; reiterate your view that the current draft City Plan 2015 fails to ensure Koala habitats are protected and new habitat areas established to support the dietary requirements and roaming nature of bushland and urban koalas.
- Lobby all candidates for the seat of Bowman at the upcoming federal election for their commitment to a national approach to the protection of koalas and a Koala Protection Act.