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Environment big winner in IPART Special Rate decision

20 May, 2016Posted in: Environment
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Land for wildlife

Continuation of award-winning environmental works in the Wingecarribee Shire is assured following approval of Council’s Special Rate Variation application.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) this week announced its approval of the SRV application, paving the way for a continued focus on restoration of bushland, natural habitats and waterways.

While approval for the environmental levy was not due to expire until June 2019, Council’s SRV application sought its continuation on a permanent basis,” Mayor Larry Whipper said.  “This means Council in partnership with the community has the ability to continue to protect threatened species such as koalas, continue weed control, support Bushcare and Landcare initiatives and continue sustainability initiatives.

“Having advocated for this program since its inception, I’m delighted that IPART have seen fit to permanently approve Council’s environmental program.”

An Environment Levy has been in place since July 2000 and this has allowed Council to partner with the community on crucial environmental issues within the Shire including:

  • river health;
  • restoration of wetlands, riparian zones and bushlands reserves;
  • biodiversity conservation;
  • conservation of endangered species and ecological communities; and
  • urban environmental sustainability.

The latest Environment Levy program has been aligned to key goal and targets in Council’s Environment and Sustainability Strategy, which aims to deliver on the environmental goals identified in the Community Strategic Plan W2031+.

Continuation of the Environment Levy allows the following expenditure on environment and sustainability programs:

Biodiversity Conservation                                                                    $585,000

Focusing on the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems, improving connectivity between remnant bushland, controlling threats to biodiversity and protecting threatened species.

Programs include:

  • Managing bushland assets including weed control and revegetation – 1,000Ha of bushland under repair a year;
  • Vegetation conservation program, working with landholders to conserve wildlife habitat and create corridors of vegetation within the Shire – over 2,500Ha currently managed for conservation purposes; and
  • Southern Highland Koala Conservation Project.

Streams and Rivers                                                                              $109,000

Focusing on improving water quality in key rivers and creeks and improving the health and function of the surrounding riparian areas.

Programs include:

  • Restoration works on local waterways – over 40 creek sites currently under repair.

Sustainable Living Program                                                             $38,000

Focusing on reducing waste, fossil fuel usage and improving efficiency while developing programs to help our community to choose to live more sustainably.

Programs include:

  • Community Assistance Scheme / Environmental grants for environmental projects run by community groups;
  • Support to community and business Sustainability; and
  • Delivering sustainable infrastructure, for example energy efficiency lighting and use of solar power.

Community Support                                                                         $250,000

Strengthening the capacity and commitment of the broader community to act together to address environmental issues.

Programs include:

  • Bushcare and Landcare volunteer support – 14 Bushcare groups contributing an equivalent of over $100,000 of labour a year;
  • Wingecarribee Students and Sustainability Program;
  • Community planting projects; and
  • Rural landholder support.

Program Coordination                                                                  $245,000

Providing strategic direction and support to the Environment Levy program:

  • Scientific research and best practice land management expertise to prioritise and pinpoint the best use of Levy funds;
  • Monitoring and reporting of program outcomes; and
  • Obtaining grants and contributions from other government agencies and organisations to value add to the Environment Levy investment.

The Environment Levy program is guided by Council’s Environment Strategy and overseen by Council’s Environment and Sustainability Committee. This strategy has a review cycle to maintain currency, adapt to conditions, and build accountability.

Environment Levy funds will continue to be used to attract grants and other contributions. Since 2012, Council has secured nearly $600,000 in extra funding from other government agencies and organisations to invest in our local environment. Grant funding applications usually require the applicant to contribute an equal amount of money (matching funding) to the project and the additional funds provided by the Environment Levy allows us to do this. Permanent continuation of this levy would allow Council to continue with the significant environmental gains made over the last 15 years.