Official opposition to clearing revealed

THE NSW Office of Environment [OEH] and the National Parks and Wildlife Service both have concerns about Shoalhaven City Council’s plan to clear Gerroa Road.

Council’s Review of Environmental Factors [REF] report into the proposed clearing of the roadway revealed OEH opposed council’s project to clear the road edges, including the removal of the Bum Tree, while the NPWS was concerned about the perceived impacts on the Seven Mile Beach National Park, the presence of threatened species and “at risk populations” and the lack of consultation between council and the service.

The REF report revealed OEH, which manages Seven Mile Beach, did not support the project.

The report stated the OEH respondents were not in favour of the project, particularly the removal of the Bum Tree and other significant trees at the Beach Road intersection and increasing canopy separation along the length of the road.

The report also said a reduction of speed limits was proposed by OEH in order to retain the Bum Tree and other significant trees, which was rejected by council, which provided OEH with reasons why reducing the speed limit for tree retention was not an option.

The report said council provided OEH officers with a draft environmental assessment in January on which they were asked to comment and were told of the start dates for work.

Council received a reply on February 13 just one day before the scheduled start of the project.

A NPWS letter outlined concerns about the impacts on the Seven Mile Beach National Park, particularly along the northern section of works, also mentioned threatened species, “at risk populations”, lack of consultation from council and reduced fauna connectivity and potential increased “road-kills”.

Council said it endeavoured to consult with NPWS since November last year and had met with officers a number of times.

A telephone meeting between council’s project managers and the NPWS regional manager agreed to further consultation on the northern section of the road in the week of February 17 – the week the work started.

The report did state that a number of meetings between council staff and NPWS since February 14 culminated in a change to tree clearing plans north of the Beach Road intersection, reducing the clearing area from six to five metres which would provide the retention of one or possibly two hollow bearing trees and improved canopy retention.

The report also said the loss of six hollow-bearing trees was unlikely to be significant in terms of the entire ecosystem of the locality.

It said the proposed work would exacerbate the existing disconnection caused by Gerroa Road and increased road-kill might result but there were no species likely to rely on the site that the modifications would put in further danger.

Council’s report said claims the removal of the trees would lead to risk of endangering a population of greater gliders in the area hadn’t been substantiated and that robust and significant populations and many individual species were known to occur well away from the work and Gerroa Road.

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