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New community liaison with Port Stephens Council

New community liaison for the environment with Port Stephens Council

Sue Olsson, Vice-President EcoNetwork Port Stephens.

Our first meeting of the Environmental Advisory Group (EAG) on Wednesday 30 August 2023, saw an optimistic start to a welcome liaison for the environment with Port Stephens Council.

With its beginnings back in July 2021, several keen environmentalists representing a range of community groups, met with (then Council candidate) Leah Anderson to chat about our concerns and opportunities to create community pathways to act for the environment with Port Stephens Council. Taking this onboard, Leah undertook in her election platform to create a representative group to liaise with Council about the environment.

In March 2023, Councillor Leah Anderson took a Notice of Motion (NoM) to Port Stephens Council requesting a report to establish an Environmental Advisory Group. This NoM recognised that:

  • the protection and improvement of the environment is important to the Port Stephens community — evidenced through Council’s Liveability Survey where the top scoring community priority found 71% of respondents placed a high care factor on the natural environment.
  • the establishment of an advisory panel would offer Council a regular forum for discussion, consultation, collaboration and advice provided from interested members of the Port Stephens community.

You may like to read more about the Environmental Advisory Group including the Terms of Reference, as well as the first agenda, minutes and attendance. Meetings will be held four times per year – February, May, August and November, with the next one on Wednesday 8 November.

Members of the Environmental Advisory Group include 2 Port Stephens Councillors including Cr Leah Anderson as chair, 2 council officers, 3 independent representatives from the community and 10 environmental community group representatives, which include Climate Action Port Stephens, EcoNetwork Port Stephens, Friends of Tomaree National Park, Koala Koalition, Mambo Wanda Wetlands Ramsar Working Group, Marine Parks Association, Renew – Hunter Region Branch, Tilligerry Habitat, Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association Inc. (TRRA), Voices of Wallalong and Woodville (VOWW).

* Circular Economy is managed by the Waste Team

A key function of the EAG is as a conduit between Council and community for the exchange of ideas in the environmental space – an opportunity to have your voice heard in addition to your own other channels. Make sure you contact a representative, whether of a group or an independent representative.

Kate Drinan, the Natural Systems team coordinator, informed us all positions within the Natural Systems Team are now fully engaged. This we were delighted to hear after the high turnover within the team over recent years.

Each person conveyed their key frustrations in the environmental space. These are detailed in the EAG Minutes, and I’ve summarised as:

  • Climate change meaningful action is moving too slowly
  • Biodiversity impacts, particularly loss of habitat with development and future housing
  • Shortcomings with environmental standards and legislation, difficulties with complexity og DA process
  • Council staffing changes and lack of resources impact the momentum of environmental projects, lack of
  • Emotive decision making rather than rational and strategic decisions making.

We considered future actions for the EAG which are also detailed in the EAG Minutes. We look forward to being able to share more information with you and to your feedback.

Published: 12 Sep 2023