Sunday, 4 September 2016

Northern Beaches Candidates Forum

The Coffs Harbour Greens team attended a candidates forum on Saturday to discuss issues and answer questions relating to our Northern Beaches area. Interested locals from all over the Northern Beaches attended and pitched some great questions.

Councillor Sally Townley speaking at Northern Beaches Candidates Forum

The Coffs Harbour Greens outlined their long history of involvement in the area and shared their vision for the future. I discussed how the Greens had been instrumental in the fight for the protection of the South Moonee Forest, a high conservation area of coastal forest which had been proposed for housing and now is permanently protected and managed by National Parks. Moonee locals fought a long campaign on this issue and we're thrilled at the outcome. 

Since then, retaining the character of each village, while lobbying for adequate community facilities has been part of my work on Council. A massive outcry was heard from the Emerald Beach community when fragile and intact wetlands were proposed for housing in North Emerald. This area had been the subject of many unsuccessful Development Applications over the years and was alway refused due to its environmental values. A change in State government regulations now allows developer to trade off areas of high conservation value for others, known as Biobanking. This can eliminate assessment of threatened species, however it does not eliminate assessment of other environmental and social values. I worked closely with the community and supported them in their rejection of this plan. Concerns of flooding, coastal erosion, loss of amenity, social disconnection, impact on adjoining National Parks land were some of the issues documented. I was able to convince a majority of fellow Councillors to reject the application. It now lies before the Land and Environment Court, but the residents know that they, and I, did everything in our power to make our views known.

Provision of adequate communIty facilities is also of concern. An issue that I have worked on and plan to continue is making sure that Developer Contribution funds (section 94) which are the fees paid to Council, per each new housing block to cover roads, sewer, water and community facilities continue to be spent on those purposes. I discovered in some cases that millions of dollars is sitting unspent where almost all houses have been built, fees collected and yet promised footpaths etc have not been delivered. 

Coastal planning is becoming a critical issue. I supported Council's plans for Development Control in the coastal zone, however was in a minority. In the coming term of Council, I plan to re-introduce this important issue back on the agenda. We need a clear plan for each zone and there must be recognition that huge sums of public money cannot be used to hold back the sea to protect private properties. We need to have empathy for those at risk, but a strategy of planned retreat in some cases will have to be implemented. 

Finally, it's not all just about the coast. The hinterland of the Northern Beaches area is facing heavy pressure form industrialised agriculture in the form of blueberry and cucumber reproduction. There has been widespread vegetation clearing to make way for these industries, there is massive extraction pressure on small coastal creeks, there is high levels of agricultural chemicals with no regulations as far as provision of buffer zones to creeks and neighbouring and uses. I believe Council can play a much stronger role and I will strongly advocate for a change to our LEP a to require consent for intensive horticulture operations. In this way, such things as buffers can be mandated. I will also work with other departments to seek support for this change. Landholders are becoming increasingly concerned about the loss of water supply and the whole community needs to be aware of this issue if the horticulture industry is truly going to profit our area.

If you would like to chat about any of these issues or others, please give me a call on 0427092415, message me on facebook or email