Regional Forestry Agreements (RFA's)
Last month after only two days notice Councillors and staff attended a stakeholder briefing on work undertaken by the State and Federal Governments towards renewing the three Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) across NSW. The North East Agreement which covers our Shire will expire in two years time.
Although the 20 year tenure and adoption of existing boundaries and core objectives are not negotiable, there is some flexibility in the five year reporting and climate change impacts.
I was very disappointed by the poor communication of this consultation process and the fact that the existing boundaries and core objectives of the RFA which will impact the Bellingen Shire had been decided before any dialogue had begun with local government.
Nevertheless, Council voted unanimously at its February Meeting to forward a submission to the State Government registering its objection to a new 20 year agreement being entered into without any provision for the payment of local government rates on State Forests despite the fact they are a commercial enterprise, cause significant damage to council road and bridge networks and provide unfair competition to private forestry which do pay rates.
Additionally the submission will call for the establishment of meaningful movement corridors for Koalas in State Forest that integrate with and build upon Council’s previous work in identifying linkage areas on private areas of land within the Shire.
Finally, that the government’s north coast climate change projections of increased rainfall and resulting increased erosion potential, be reflected in the new Agreement by increasing the required setbacks between forestry operations and riparian features, and limiting forestry operations on land with high slopes in order to minimise the likelihood of sediment entering watercourses.
Council's Community Grants Programs
Many community members may not be aware that Council runs a number of grant programs throughout the year in support of community organisations, not for profits and individuals. There are currently five grant programs to fund activities, events and projects that fall into the categories of arts, heritage, environment and broader community benefit. The grant programs usually open between March and October each year.
Council is currently reviewing some of these grant programs and is looking for community input. If you would like to participate in a short survey regarding Council’s grant programs, please go to the ‘Create’ Bellingen website at www.create.bellingen.nsw.gov.au.
The survey is open from Monday 12 March until Monday 2 April. For more information regarding the various community grant programs, you can contact Council on 6655 7300.
Until next time,
Cr Dominic King
9 March 2018