Councillors defends green zoning
LISMORE City Council has voted to formally condemn the State Government's removal of environmental zones from Lismore's draft LEP after a tense debate that highlighted ideological divisions within council about individual land rights and environmental care.
The verbal stoush traversed two motions, one put forward by councillor Neil Marks to 'congratulate' the government for the excision of the E zones on behalf of local farmers, and an opposite (and successful) motion by Simon Clough to express 'deep concern' at the changes.
Cr Clough's motion won the day, with the four Country Labor councillors, Greens councillor Vanessa Ekins, and independent councillor Clough voting to formally condemn the LEP changes, six votes to five.
Cr Clough decried the LEP changes as a slap in the face to local government, and warned they were a 'precedent which may well travel into the new planning legislation'.
He also labelled the move as a 'knee jerk decision' by planning minister Brad Hazzard, stemming from the protests of a 'noisy minority'.
"We have here one of a long line of decisions from Sydney which have taken power from local council," said Cr Clough.
Cr Clough also pointed out the E2 and E3 zones removed from the draft LEP constituted only 1.5% of the total area of Lismore's LEP.
Cr Ekins seconded the motion, calling attention to the Northern Rivers being one of the highest biodiversity areas in Australia.
"This region attracts millions of dollars in environmental restoration funds... there are hundreds of people working in environmental restoration in this region... it's a big industry in this town," said Cr Ekins.
On the other side of the debate, Gianpiero Battista, Neil Marks, Graham Meineke, and newcomers Mathew Scheibel and Greg Bennett voted unsuccessfully to thank the government for the removal of the E zones.
In presenting his ultimately unsuccessful motion, Cr Marks led a charge he said represented farmers' deep concerns about the E zones, claiming they had been 'punished' for caring for their land.
He said although farmers were a minority of the community, they didn't deserve to be treated as such because of their vital stewardship of the land.
"The farmers create an environment that we all enjoy, let's say thankyou for that, and not whack them with E zones," said Cr Marks.
Cr Meineke agreed, saying "E zones don't accord people the respect they deserve."
Cr Meineke recounted a meeting he had with a Rosebank landholder - a former 'greenie' - who upon finding out that half of his land had an E zone on it was 'so depressed he felt like getting a bucketful of Agent Orange and spraying it over all of the trees'.
Similarly, full-time organic farmer Greg Bennet said most farmers he knew had stopped planting native vegetation on their property as a result of the E zones.
Council will now send a letter to the local MPs Don Page and Thomas George and planning minister Brad Hazzard and the Premier O'Farrell, as well as the Local Government Association expressing council's 'deep concern at the minister's arbitrary removal of environmental zones 2 and 3 from Council's draft LEP'.