Kiama Municipal Council has expressed concern that an environmentally sensitive corridor at Cleary Bros sandmining operations at Gerroa was severed without proper consultation.
Kiama councillors have unanimously backed a notice of motion from Greens councillor Andrew Sloan requesting that the council write to Cleary Bros and the Department of Planning "expressing disappointment" the council and community were only informed about the severing of "the East-West Fauna Link" at the site after it occurred.
Cr Sloan said the link was only to be severed once compensatory plantings to the north were mature enough to provide habitat for tree-dwelling animals, as outlined in the mine's conditions of approval.
Community representatives on the Gerroa Sand Mine Community Consultative Committee believed they should have been notified prior to the clearing of the habitat.
The habitat contains endangered ecological communities and was home to a number of endangered species.
"The intention of the motion is to remind the department and Cleary Bros that one of the main purposes of the consultative committee is to provide advice to the department and community and this can only be done by ensuring information is provided in a timely matter," Cr Sloan said.
The Department of Planning said in assessing Cleary Bros' request to sever the link, it found that "of the 45 native flora species listed in Appendix 6 of the project approval, 33 were now present in the establishing northern corridor".
This equated to 73 per cent of species, which was greater than the minimum 60 per cent required by the condition of consent, while the majority of animal species were present in other conservation areas and corridors on site.
The department said it recognised the use of the new corridor by arboreal mammals was likely to be limited until trees had matured, however the presence of these species was not a necessity imposed by the court approval, nor was it the intent of the approval that vegetation in the northern corridor needed to be fully grown prior to cutting the link.
A spokesman said it was the department's understanding the issue was discussed at a number of community consultative committee meetings before and after its approval to sever the link.
"The department has also subsequently communicated its reasons for approving the clearing to CCC representatives,’’ the spokesman said.
However Cr Sloan said the CCC was not involved in the terms of reference for the fauna study on which the department granted approval to sever the link nor did they have an opportunity to review the study.
Cr Sloan said an ecologist engaged by the Gerroa Environmental Protection Society disagreed with the fauna study findings.