Strategic plan to care for shire's biodiversity

Hepburn Shire Council is seeking further feedback on its draft biodiversity strategy.

The community has been invited to share their thoughts on the strategy –  which aims to protect, enhance and restore biodiversity throughout the shire – at a workshop on December 7. 

Hepburn Shire Council manager planning Justin Fiddes said the workshop was scheduled to seek extra input to the strategy.

The biodiversity strategy outlines 11 strategic areas of focus for a four-year action plan to “create partnerships, increase awareness on biodiversity matters and provide protection and enhancement to improve biodiversity for future generations”. 

Sailors Falls. Picture: Dylan Burns

Sailors Falls. Picture: Dylan Burns

According to the draft report, Hepburn Shire contains around 97,670 hectares of native vegetation, covering 30.3 per cent of the region. 

“The workshops and engagement raised concerns that we must protect our biodiversity because it is an important reason why people come to the shire,” the report states. 

Strategic areas of focus outlined include: weed management, strategic planning, training and skill development, community knowledge and awareness building, and pests and animals. 

The draft report proposed the allocation of $152,000 to council’s roadside weed management program as part of council’s weed management strategy. 

Mr Fiddes said significant feedback was given on the need for council to undertake roadside weed spraying during consultation on the background papers. 

Among other feedback, Mr Fiddes said some concerns had been raised about the strategy’s impact on agricultural producers in the shire. 

The draft report states council “can protect significant areas for biodiversity by … reducing the intensity of surrounding agriculture (eg fertilisers, pesticides and stocking rates)”. 

Mr Fiddes confirmed this statement would be removed from the final biodiversity strategy. He said the information came from a background paper and should not have been included in the draft strategy. 

Trentham Falls in July 2016. Picture: Dylan Burns.

Trentham Falls in July 2016. Picture: Dylan Burns.

Concerns have also been raised about strategic planning actions which involve changes to zones and overlays in high quality biodiversity areas. 

Mr Fiddes said the Hepburn planning scheme would be reviewed as required under the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

“This will involve extensive community consultation and may result in changes to zones and overlays. Any changes must align with state policy. State policy protects productive agricultural land for its use for agriculture.”

The feedback workshop will be held on December 7 from 2pm to 4pm in the Daylesford Senior Citizens Centre. Visit https://www.hepburn.vic.gov.au/biodiversity-strategy-2017-21-workshop/ to register.