The recent clearing of trees at a residential development site at South West Rocks has caused some concern within the community.
The subject site is a block of bushland, on Steve Eagleton Drive, that has been zoned residential since the 1980s, surrounded by built out residential, business, and industrial land.
The developer of the residential zoned block had the subdivision approved in 2019 subject to a variety of heritage and biodiversity conditions.
However, the recent work conducted at the site has raised community concerns. In a letter to the Macleay Argus, resident Alison Dodds said a number of locals are concerned about the loss of habitat surrounding the town.
"The ongoing loss of habitat is forcing animals to loose their homes. Large kangaroos are feeding in the old parts of South West Rocks and are crossing busy roads to get to the fragmented habitat areas," she said.
"The character of the town and the visual appeal of South West Rocks as a tourist destination and home for its residents is being eroded."
A second letter was sent to the Argus from Jane Oborn who recently returned to South West Rocks from Sydney and noticed the cleared land.
"Old growth trees and potential koala habitat has been totally destroyed," she said.
"I also read and juxtaposed to this destruction was news that there has been a funding boost from the State Government to Kempsey and Port Macquarie Councils in an effort to protect koala habitat.
"We cannot have wildlife corridors for our wildlife if we continue to destroy the very habitat that is their home."
The site in question, located at 13-19 Steve Eagleton Drive in South West Rocks, has been recently cleared of trees for an approved 27 lot subdivision.
A subdivision proposal was lodged on December 3 2018 and was assessed and approved in 2019 under Delegated Authority after internal and external referral.
Council's General Manager Craig Milburn said that the developer had complied with all council and state government requirements in place to protect the natural environment.
"Our natural environment is one of Kempsey Shire's greatest strengths and council is focused on protecting our natural beauty, however this is balanced with our need for growth of our community and economy," he said.
"It is never easy to see trees being felled, but in this case the developer made lengthy efforts to fulfil their biodiversity offset obligations and have followed all the right steps. The community that grows in this new subdivision will be an additional asset to our shire and the biodiversity offset should see new vegetation growing as well."
This is also the first development site within the Kempsey Shire to proceed under the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment's Biodiversity Offset Scheme, under which developers who undertake clearing generate an obligation to offset their activity through a like-for-like planting of similar vegetation in the same local area.
Despite the efforts of the developer over the past year to source a local site, and then a regional site to fund a like-for-like biodiversity stewardship to offset their development, none were available.
As such, in September 2020 the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust confirmed to council that the developer had paid their full conditioned offset obligation of $721,201.50 into the State's Biodiversity Conservation Fund.
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