Environment levy scores big for nature
  • Friday 17 September 2010

One year in, the Environment Levy Policy and Program has achieved a lot towards the preservation of the Sunshine Coast’s natural environment, with land brought for conservation reserves, strong community partnerships forged and a new Coastal Dunal Rehabilitation Program added.

At the Ordinary Meeting yesterday, Sunshine Coast Council acknowledged and championed the first year achievements from the levy program and congratulated the community for playing their part.

Environment Portfolio holder, Keryn Jones said that the first year of the environment levy program has been a total success thanks to council and the community working together to share the responsibility of protecting the Coast’s environment into the future.

“Over the past year the projects, which are only made possible by funds provided by the environment levy, have moved forward in leaps and bounds, whilst delivering on a triple bottom line outcome,” Cr Jones said.

“The levy doesn’t just protect habitat and wildlife, it also supports our economy because by protecting the environment and waterways, we are also taking care of some of the key attractors for our tourism industry, and of course the reason so many of us choose to live on the Sunshine Coast.

“It also provides returns to ratepayers at an estimated $5 million return on the dollars invested in partnerships, thanks to in-kind support from the community, not to mention significant funds obtained from other entities to support elements of program.

“The community partnerships component of the program achieves good social outcomes by supporting hundreds of volunteers.

“These volunteers work together in community groups to achieve a myriad of environmental outcomes such as ensuring turtle survival, weeding and revegetation work from the coast to the hills.

“This year, council gave about $800,000 in grants to landowners and community environment organisations to help with all the fantastic rehabilitation and restoration work they do on the ground.

“More individual partnerships were forged with 68 new Land for Wildlife partners recruited this year—taking our tally to nearly 1000 partners working to conserve and restore about 7000 hectares.

“This is the highest participation rate in Queensland—plus there are a further 24 landholders protecting 254 hectares of land through the Voluntary Conservation Agreements.

“These volunteers continue to amaze me in their commitment to preserving the land we love.

“This re-emphasises how important our environment is to the people of the Sunshine Coast—showing the real value of the Environment Levy and the projects it delivers.

“I look forward to continuing this great work into the upcoming years of the Environment Levy Program.”

Key achievements in the first year of the environment levy funded initiatives include:

  • co-contributions for many of the program elements from government, communities and private individuals, including a grant of $800,000 from the Commonwealth Government towards the purchase of one high priority property for conservation.
  • acquisition of two high conservation value properties within Cooroibah and Pomona, contributing a further 74 hectares towards conservation reserves in council’s ownership
  • maintenance and support for nearly 1,000 Land for Wildlife partners and properties, protecting 7000 hectares of bushland
  • an additional 7 new Voluntary Conservation Agreements secured this year, taking the total to 24 private landholder partners contributing 254 hectares towards biodiversity conservation through Voluntary Conservation Agreements
  • over $500,000 in grants provided to landholders to assist in on-ground environmental protection and enhancement activities
  • over $300,000 in grants provided to community based environment organisations
  • investigations into the introduction of conservation partnership opportunities to urban landholders that will contribute to maintaining and enhancing habitat for coastal species
  • commenced development of an Environment Levy communication and promotions plan that will broadcast the achievements of projects, and draw further partners in to contribute towards the sustainability of the Sunshine Coast
  • sponsorship of intergenerational events that promote the environment of the Sunshine Coast and a sustainable approach to living and development
  • development of a strategic approach to the management of, and planning for, coastal areas and major catchments and waterways
  • development of partnerships with the University of the Sunshine Coast for researching biodiversity and aquatic ecosystem health
  • development of an innovative framework for monitoring and reporting on the status of the Sunshine Coast’s biodiversity

For more information on the Environment Levy Policy, including the first progress report, visit council’s website.