Keep your pens steeled

Ed, On Friday, May 23, I had a chance meeting with a planner from the Steven’s Group development group, who with their ecologist and others were walking on the 19 hectare Birrigan Gargle owned site in Iluka. She offered that the developer was going back to the drawing board after the first D/A… remember? It seems submissions made by Ilukans and others have had an impact; we are the people who live here, after all, and the wildlife is only as safe as our collective vigilance, and that includes Clarence Valley Council’s. The planner said she didn’t think the site was core koala habitat, to which I replied that documented evidence of mother koala and baby on site indicates a breeding population which in turn makes it indeed core koala habitat under State policy. Recent koala sightings, only a little further afield (one captured on camera), are evidence of a presence on the Iluka peninsula which needs to be nurtured, and that all habitat and connectivity is to be preserved. The planner also questioned the validity of the site containing the endangered coastal cypress pine community. I ventured in return, that the site is home to over 450 cypress pine individuals (483), rather a large contingent, and 23 to 28 of the 34 accompanying species that make up the endangered ecological community of which there now exists only 200 hectares in the whole of N.S.W. are found on site. In other words this community faces extinction if threats such as this proposal are allowed to occur. I would ask that the ecologist, developer and Clarence Valley Council note that even small patches that have been disturbed in the past by clearing or fire are still considered to be important remnants of the coastal Cypress Pine Forest and meet the criteria of being an endangered Ecological community. Furthermore, “Not all the species listed (in the EEC) need to occur on site for it to be considered Coastal Cypress Pine Forest and additional species not included in the list may occur.” Reference: Dept. Environment and Climate Change, March 2009. For example Rainforest species may occur, which is certainly the case for this site. Next, when I referred to the potential impact on Iluka’s World Heritage Rainforest and Nature Reserve of even a modified D/A, she played it down, naturally. More plausibly, I think, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has expressed concerns regarding the “high impacts of adjacent land use on the outstanding universal values of the Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage Area, and specifically referring to Iluka Nature Reserve: Incompatible land use on adjoining properties, and pressure from residential and tourist development due to increasing urbanization and populations pose a high threat.” (Information debt to John Edwards, Clarence Environment Centre). These were the main points of our conversation; the spiritless suburbia that already plagues Ilukan urban design is an entirely indigestible crumb to be offered in exchange for this crucial connective habitat and Endangered Ecological Community. Keep your pens steeled, man/woman your iPad for the next D/A and stay aware of the facts. Gabrielle Barto, Iluka