For the owners of 13 Central Avenue, South Nowra, the cost of complying with the Biodiversity Conservation Act is more than the cost of the land itself.
John Norman's land is situated on an undeveloped parcel of a category of industrially zoned lands known as employment lands.
Mr Norman purchased the land to expand his recycling business which has been in the family for 75 years. He acquired it on April 17 2018, about eight months after the commencement of the Biodiversity Conservation Act.
After purchasing the land Mr Norman hired a consultant to work out the costs of complying with the legislation. According to the consultant, the cost of clearing the land and paying the biodiversity offsetting costs would be over $1.5 million, which is $300,000 more than the amount he paid for the land itself.
"We've got the federal government telling us that we've got to create employment. We've got the state government telling us that we've got to create employment. But the minute we start expanding to create employment, they want to tax us out of business," Mr Norman said.
At the Development and Environment Committee meeting on Tuesday April 6, Shoalhaven Independents Cr Greg Watson raised a motion which called for Shoalhaven City Council to lobby the NSW Government to make employment lands exempt from biodiversity offsetting costs. The motion was spurred by Mr Norman's biodiversity offsetting issue and was carried by the council.
"This really drives a stake through the heart of the unemployed," said Cr Watson.
He said the matter was vitally important to the council because a lot of industrial zoned lands, including council's Flinders Industrial Estate, had been ensnared in the biodiversity offset scheme.
According to Cr Watson, there was one small partial of council land in the Flinders Estate which had a biodiversity offset cost of $6 million.
"It starts to price the land right out of the marketplace," he said.
Greens Mayor Amanda Findley wanted the motion to be deferred until the next Strategy and Assets meeting when a report would be delivered containing some reference to the disadvantage suffered by people seeking to industrially develop.
She said deferring would provide the council with more information to base their decision making on. And, she believed the notice of motion sought to advocate on the behalf of the entirety of NSW.
"One of the main outcomes of biodiversity offsets is to save koala habitat and we have no idea where koala habitat is threatened throughout NSW let alone the habitat of other critically endangered species. So I do think this is slight overreach," she said.
Independent Cr Joanna Gash asked Cr Watson why the issue was brought to council chambers and not taken personally to South Coast MP Shelley Hancock.
"This is far beyond just the Normans," Cr Watson replied.
"There's a group of property owners who call themselves the disadvantaged property owners.
"They are in a similar situation. Following the enactment of the legislation, we might as well not have worried about zoning the land as industrial."
He said when the legislation was developed, nobody knew what the biodiversity offset really meant.
"It wasn't until regulations were introduced that suddenly the penny dropped in terms of what the cost would be," he said.
Shoalhaven Independents Cr Andrew Guile thanked Cr Watson for raising the motion.
"It's not about killing off the entire [Biodiversity Conservation Act], all it's about is giving a general exception for land that's zoned employment land in NSW. Employment lands are not conservation lands," he said.
"Employment lands are there to be cleared for factories, to be used for productive purposes, to give people jobs and to bring return on investments. That's why we have employment lands. That's why we carefully zone them and carefully place them."
Cr Guile said he was surprised the NSW government had not seen the potential for this issue to occur.
"If you're in support of local investment, if you're in support of jobs, if you're in support of the future of employment in the Shoalhaven, then you should [support this motion]," he told council.
Country Labour Cr Annette Alldrick said she took offence to the inclination she would be against advancing employment in the Shoalhaven if she chose to vote against the motion.
"If we were really serious about tackling unemployment, we could make representation to the local members to reinstate all the courses that have been removed from our local TAFEs over the last few years," she said.
For: the CEO, Crs Pakes, Kitchener, Proudfoot, Watson, White, Wells, Gash and Guile.
Against: Mayor Findley, Crs Alldrick, Gartner, Digiglio and Levett.