Bid to reverse biodiversity decision looks doomed says mayor

DESPITE a chorus of dissent from five Lismore City councillors, the divisive Biodiversity Management Strategy (BMS) is likely to be adopted.

Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell said rescission motions put forward by councillors Graham Meineke, Greg Bennett, Gianpiero Battista, Neil Marks and Mathew Scheibel will probably fall flat at today's extraordinary meeting.

Cr Dowell and five other Country Labor and Greens councillors voted for the strategy at a recent meeting.

"It's a procedural hiccup to go through a rescission motion and there is another alternative motion being proposed to scale it back to do some work within existing budget that Cr Marks has put forward," she said.

Councillors "flying blind" on controversial environment levy

"I can see why they're concerned but they know there's not going to be a change of heart of councillors so I don't think they have an expectation the vote will be any different.

"I think while there is certainly some vocal opposition to the BMS, or not so much the BMS but the special rate variation, as Councillor (Vanessa) Ekins said, we need to do it, it's time, and it is affordable.

"And I think for the councillors who support it we believe it's a culmination of 11 years work and we should do it."

Cr Dowell said surveys conducted by the Hunter Research Foundation showed most ratepayers agreed with the strategy.

She added farmers, who she said were the strategy's main opponents, will be key beneficiaries and those already undertaking environmental work on their land will be able to claim a rate rebate.

But Cr Battista said he and the other opposing councillors did not agree with the council applying to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) for an accompanying 1.9% rate rise.

He said the council should scale back the strategy and work within its current budget to make improvements to biodiversity.

"I'm not against managing the environment. I just don't think the people of Lismore can afford a special rate variation," he said.

"We have high unemployment and lots of low income earners; single parent families already struggling."

Cr Battista would like to see a "project based" environmental strategy funded by a one-off ratepayer payment.

One of the strategy's most vocal critics, Cr Greg Bennett has said: "This whole process is being driven by environmentalists who know nothing about and care little about how the BMS will impact farming."


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