Shellharbour council consider community input for reserves

Bass Point

Bass Point

Plans to establish a community committee to help manage Bass Point and Blackbutt Forest Reserves will be further considered by Shellharbour councillors despite opposition to the move from Shellharbour City Council staff.

Council staff said the existing internal management of the two reserves was "efficient and effective" and an external committee structure could "slow down the process" if items needed to go through a committee.

Despite this, Shellharbour councillors unanimously resolved to defer councillor Kellie Marsh's proposal to form a community committee, pending a briefing on the proposal.

Cr Marsh said the council appeared "paranoid" about community consultation.

"I can't see how having a committee or working party can't enhance the activities going on there," Cr Marsh said.

Cr Peter Moran said Bass Point and Blackbutt Forest were the two most significant, naturally vegetated areas in Shellharbour City's urban footprint.

"I think the community wants to have a say in these places and the only way the community can have say is if councillors have a say," Cr Moran said.

Blackbutt Reserve, established in the 1980s, is home to a number of endangered ecological communities as well as various threatened flora and fauna species. The reserve also has high Aboriginal heritage significance.

Bass Point also supports endangered ecological communities, threatened species and their habitats, has significant Aboriginal and European heritage sites and high scenic and recreational values.

Council staff said the creation of a committee for the two areas would require approximately $3000 in funding to administer, which could lead to a reduced expenditure on other activities.

The management of the two reserves has been in the spotlight since a council restructure saw roles previously undertaken by four park rangers given to other sections within the council "where these activities were more aligned".

Cr Moran said while a streamlined structure of staff might suit senior management based in Lamerton House, it might not suit the two reserves.

In June, the United Services Union said damage to an endangered species at Bass Point Reserve was proof that council was wrong to take away park rangers from Bass Point and Blackbutt Forest.

The council said a few branches of the plant were damaged during a pruning process to remove vegetation from the road to improve safe vision, site distances and lane clearing and had nothing to do with the removal of park rangers.

"The new staffing arrangements have been in place for several months and while minor issues have occurred, to the credit of all involved, they have been resolved swiftly and not impacted the operations of reserves and resulted in positive financial benefits," a council report said.

Deputy mayor Paul Rankin said staffing of the reserves was an operational matter and councillors needed to be careful where they tread with operational issues.

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