Tuesday, February 02, 2010

New England's environmental wars - introduction

In Locals continue to object to Glen Innes wind farm I referred to the environmental battles that had been raging across the North, finishing with perhaps another post?

I know far less than I should about this topic. Just to illustrate with a few examples.

At Byron Bay, the only Green controlled Council in NSW has just lost a legal battle when a court upheld a home owner's right to protect his property from the sea. According to the Australian, this effectively demolished the Council's plans to roll back beachfront living.

Across the North, the NSW Farmer's Association has been organising farmers and graziers to attend a Canberra protest meeting over property rights. The Sydney based green lobby group the Total Environment Centre has described farmers' claim for compensation for loss of property rights incurred under land clearing bans, as a furphy and has vowed to fight "all the way" against any push by farmers for land clearing bans to be eased.

Just to the south of New England on the NSW Central Coast, the Express Advocate reports that Wyong Shire’s 10,000 waterfront landowners have been given a reprieve from harsh new building restrictions imposed because of climate change policies. The council has voted five to four to cease using a state government draft policy on building applications in low-lying coastal areas because of the damage and uncertainty created. My thanks to MyCentralCoast for this one.

In the Wollombi Valley in New England's south, the draft decision by Cessnock City Council to change the zoning of 2500 hectares of Hunter farmland now under existing Rural 1A zoning to Environmental 3 to create a “buffer” for the Watagans National Park has created local outrage. You will find full details of his one if you search Wollombi Valley On-line.

In Water Wars - the Darling floods I reported on battles over Darling River waters. 

All this actually becomes remarkably complicated because these disputes sit at the centre of a series of over-lapping circles of change, including changing attitudes to the environment and of varying administrative structures.

Sometimes the conflicts that arise are simply irreconcilable. In other cases, they can be eased by carefully disentangling the issues involved. In this context, it helps to understand how the bits fit together in a broader sense.

Over the next post or so, I will try to draw out some of the common threads in these various disputes. In doing so, I should make my own biases clear. Because of my personal background, I have a natural sympathy for the local.

So in the case of the Wollombi Valley proposed re-zoning, I am immediately inclined to support those challenging the new zoning. To convince me, its protagonists would need to demonstrate two things.

First, the identified benefits to come from the change. This needs to be beyond the level of generalities. Secondly, the identified costs of the change. Who will lose? Once these two steps have been carried out, it becomes possible to at least make a rational choice by comparing costs and benefits.   


Jonathan said...

As a home owner and a business not far from Wollombi, I'm surprised that I haven't heard about this re-zoning. I personally doubt that this re-zoning is nessasary.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Jonathon. I have to add an immediate qualification that I am working from a distance. Accepting that, on the material I have seen I would agree with your last point.