On 8 July 2019, Council agreed to exhibit a Greener Places Strategy. The strategy is about improving the greening of our urban areas and neighbourhoods - improving the look, feel and habitat of these areas whilst also reducing the heat island effects of built up areas. The exhibition period closed in September 2019. Over 12 months later, there is still no strategy in place.
The Coastal Open Space System (COSS) is a network of reserves with the purpose “to maintain areas of native vegetation and habitat for native animals on public land”. COSS was put in place by the former Gosford Council over 35 years ago. It is a long term strategy that involves the voluntary acquisition of lands and is about 70% complete - so there is still more work to do.
During the last 3 years, there have been efforts to downplay COSS and its significance. It has been a constant battle to try to protect this legacy - and it continues to face threats. One of these threats is mountain biking. Council is releasing a draft feasibility study for mountain biking in our region. There is significant pressure from vested interests to open up environmentally sensitive COSS lands for this activity.
In my view, the discussion paper is biased having been prepared by consultants that benefit from mountain biking and involving targeted input from mountain bikers. On 18 December 2017, Council resolved that there be an environmental assessment for any increased activity in environmental lands - this has not been done.
Council’s COSS Committee has a role in providing advice to Council. On 29 May 2019, the COSS Committee discussed that the Feasibility Study needs to include the cost of rehabilitation, education and compliance. This has not been done.
At their last meeting, the COSS Advisory Committee expressed their strong concerns that they were not consulted on the draft MTB report in order to provide advice to Council about our COSS lands—as is their role.
The protection of Porters Creek Wetland is important for the health of Tuggerah Lakes. Wetlands act as a filter, and without them, water quality would get worse. It is the largest freshwater wetland in the region and provides habitat for many species. A survey undertaken in 1999 recorded 168 species of plants, macroinvertebrates from 70 families, 62 bird species including 9 migratory species, and 25 mammal species including 7 species of bats.
Since November 2017, there have been at least 6 resolutions of Council related to the permanent protection of Porters Creek wetlands. As a Councillor, I had meetings with staff to make sure that there was no impact on adjacent lands that were part of the Aircraft Landing Area, the Education precinct or the proposed link road. Some 3 years after that first motion in November 2017, we still don’t have that permanent protection in place.
Kangy Angy was a site that the former Wyong Council allowed the State government to use for the Rail Maintenance Facility. The site was flood prone, had rare and threatened species of plants and animals and a zoning that was meant to protect these environmental values. There was at least one other site that was more suitable for this facility. The State government has to “offset” the environmental destruction that was caused.
On 12 November, 2018 there was a Council decision to proceed with finalising offsets with the State government. Two years later, these are still not finalised - even though the Kangy Angy facility has been finished and opened.
There are many beautiful places on the Central Coast. These places are important to local communities and contribute to community wellbeing. There are a range of features that make up scenic and landscape values - both natural and built. How important are scenic and landscape values to you? Click here to do a quick survey.
Does it matter?.... you tell me.
In February 2020, I submitted the following Question on Notice:
On its website, the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) NSW describes itself as "the leading industry body representing the interests of the NSW property development sector."
Unfortunately, the Department of Planning has refused the Council's request for an extension of time on preparing the Local Strategic Planning Statement.
It is disappointing that the Minister has not allowed an extension of time for consultation due to the impacts of COVID-19. This would have allowed Council to use a range of strategies to consult with our community on this 20 year vision for future land use on the Central Coast.