When nature calls: Two new council roles proposed
COUNCIL has sought to create two new positions to address bushfire recovery.
At Wednesday’s general meeting councillors unanimously supported an application for funding to appoint Bush Care Officers on the Southern Downs.
An application seeking $350,000 to fund the roles has been submitted to the Federal Government through the Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery Program.
Councillor for Environmental, Waste, Sustainability and Disaster Management Cameron Gow said the September 2019 bushfires demonstrated how important it was to preserve the region’s natural habitat.
“The Southern Downs has an incredibly diverse and unique landscape that needs to be protected and maintained, particularly in the wake of the devastating bushfires that swept our region during 2019,” Cr Gow said.
“This application to the Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery Program, if successful, allows council to continue our commitment to environmental care while also ensuring we can allocate our budget where it is most needed during this pandemic.
“Our attention has been focused on reducing the threat of COVID-19 and providing our community with appropriate supports to deal with that. But we cannot forget the importance of maintaining the health of our landscape and natural environment as well.”
The creation of the roles was an issue raised during the council election by the Granite Belt Sustainable Action Network.
President Rick Humphries said it was positive news to see council follow through on an election commitment.
“We’re very strong supporters of the creation of these two positions,” Mr Humphries said.
“They add great value to our shire in protecting our landscapes and in terms of visitor attractions.
“It’s not just about biodiversity but making the region a more attractive tourism destination,” he said.
The officers would be tasked with, among other duties, obtaining baseline environmental data, supporting local landholders to better manage their land, improving management outcomes on land for which council is responsible and assisting with the implementation of the Southern Downs Environmental Sustainability Strategy and bushfire disaster recovery plan.
Mr Humphries does hold concerns though.
If successful, the grant funding provided to council would only cover the costs to employ the officers for a three-year term.
“The grant may or may not happen,” Mr Humphries said.
“The council are to be congratulated.
“But the question is, if the grant doesn’t get up will council still fund these roles from their own consolidated revenue?
“I’d like a public commitment from the mayor that in the event the grant isn’t successful that council will fund it in this budget cycle,” he said.