Environmental fund denied an increase

The future of Wollongong's environmental programs has been dealt a blow after councillors rejected a motion to boost environmental management and sustainability funding.

The motion, which was tabled by Greens councillor Jill Merrin at Monday night's council meeting, was voted down after lengthy discussion.

Cr Merrin had called for council to commit additional funding to environmental services in the 2014-15 budget year, after a change in state funding resulted in an $800,000 shortfall.

That shortfall means key environmental programs - like community gardens, restoration works, dune and pest management and work involving endangered ecological communities - risk losing their funding.

Cr Merrin said the existing funding was not good enough, and it was time for council to spend in line with community attitudes.

"There's a very clear picture emerging of what's important to the people of Wollongong and we do them a disservice if we only spend less than 2 per cent of our total budget - just 1.6 per cent - in these areas," she said.

In 2012, community consultation revealed environmental protection was one of the highest priorities for Wollongong residents.

This was supported by last year's Financial Sustainability Review, in which the public identified environment and sustainability programs as the only areas of council operations that needed extra funding.

"The fact we only commit $4 million out of $250 million to those areas from core funding ... that's just not good enough when it's such an important issue to people," Cr Merrin said.

Without more funding, Wollongong's native flora and fauna would continue to be degraded by habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species and unsustainable use of resources, she said.


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