E2 zone needed for bush reserves
Gosford's mayor and councillors are to be congratulated on their decision to seek an environmental zoning for the Coastal Open Space Scheme (COSS) lands when the draft LEP is presented at Council's extraordinary meeting on May 31.
It appears that Council has responded positively to over 400 LEP submissions that called for an E zone for COSS and the high level of public concern on this issue.
There are however a few points that should be made about the plan.
Firstly, the E5 "Public Conservation" zone that Council is proposing does not yet exist, and it is not at all certain that the State Government will amend its standard template to accommodate Gosford Council in this instance.
Secondly, if a new E5 zone is created as advocated by Council, it will only apply to COSS lands. For the Peninsula area (including Pearl Beach), there were 252 submissions alone requesting an E2 Environmental Conservation zone for COSS and other important bush land reserves.
These included the Burrawong Reserve at Woy Woy, Mt Ettalong Reserve, Pearl Beach Arboretum and a number of other dune, lagoon and headland bush land reserves.
Despite the high number of submissions, Council still plans to zone these bush land areas RE1 with the exception of a Special Uses zone proposed for the Pearl Beach Arboretum.
The RE1 zone will still allow a wide range of inappropriate land uses and does not provide strong conservation objectives.
There is a zone that Council can already use for both the COSS and other bush land reserves - E2.
The E2 zone sits within a hierarchy of E zones with E1 reserved for national parks and nature reserves.
It is therefore the next highest conservation zone available and the most appropriate for public bush land reserves.
An E2 zone can still allow for existing recreational uses such as bushwalking and play areas.
It also allows temporary land uses such as the annual Opera in the Arboretum and other public events.
Many councils have used the E2 zone for their bush land reserves.
This zone has no mandated land uses so Council can elect to not permit dwellings or other land uses if it so chooses.
At least 17 councils now have an E2 zone with no dwellings in their final approved LEPs prepared in accordance with the state mandated LEP template.
A further 11 councils have an E2 with no dwellings in their draft exhibited plans.
Despite Council's positive move in proposing a new E zone for COSS, an E zone is also needed for other bush land reserves.
Should Council be unsuccessful in seeking a new E zone, there is still a zone that Council can use.
That is E2, but Council needs to ensure that it does this now before it locks in other land uses and impedes the potential for having a strong restrictive environmental zone.
This is a once in 30 year opportunity and should not be wasted.