Ground Breaking Environmental Management Plan For Tumut Shire

October 8, 1999 Tumut and Adelong Times

"Priority to sustainability"

Tumut Shire Council will establish an advisory committee to formulate and oversee the development of an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for the Tumut Shire.

An Environmental Management Plan was earmarked in council's Vision 2020 document in July 1998 as part of the objective to encourage environmentally sustainable practices and industries.

In recognition of that objective, Council's 1999/2000 Management Plan calls for the preparation of an EMP for the Tumut Shire.

Council's Manager of Development and Environment, Paul Mullins, said an EMP aims to provide an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to the management of the natural and built environment.

"It is a strategic document that will provide a link between economic development, legislative requirements and preservation of the Shire's natural heritage," Mr Mullins said.

"An EMP will outline Council's commitment to, and define its policy towards, the environment, thereby providing an avenue for a cultural shift in the attitude of management, staff and the general community to one that gives priority to an ethic of sustainability."

"To my knowledge few, if any, rural shires, particularly the size of Tumut, have accepted the challenge of producing an Environment Management Plan. "Tumut Shire Council would be leading with this initiative and, in doing so would provide a direction for other rural shires to follow in the process in attaining environmental sustainability."

To oversee the development of the EMP, council will form an advisory committee, inviting representatives from Progress Associations in each town, the Economic Development Corporation, Tumut Region Ecological Education Society, Relevant Council Staff, Landcare, NSW NPWS, Youth Council, Tumut Brungle Aboriginal Land Council and Murrumbidgee Total Catchment Management Committee to form the steering committee.

To ensure that public opinion is generated throughout the planning process it is proposed to prepare a community consultation paper addressing the issues identified by the Advisory Committee, in addition to distributing a survey to obtain information on community environmental priorities.

"By giving the community the opportunity to be part of the formulation of the EMP, it is hoped that they would feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for the finished product," Mr Mullins said.

"The public would also be given the opportunity to comment on the draft EMP prior to its final adoption.'

It is envisaged the EMP will draw together the environmental programs already being undertaken by council, whilst the community may also identify additional environmental matters that are currently not being addressed.

Current programs being undertaken by council include its the Storm water Management Plan, Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Plan,. CSR Environmental Committee, Noxious Weeds control, Environmental Audits of industrial premises, Riverglade Wetlands proposal, pollution abatement, heritage conservation and the current review of the waste management, including collection, landfill disposal and recycling.

Mr Mulllins, however, admitted the implementation of the EMP would require a substantial amount of staff resources.

A survey of councils that have produced an EMP revealed that most have committed a full time officer to the position of EMP coordinator. Council has currently committed no additional resources to the task.

"Every effort will be made to complete the task with minimal disruption to the current level of services provided by Council's Development and Environment Department, but realistically existing services will be affected as a result," Mr Mullins said.

"In view of the additional workload and the expected increase flowing from the Visy mill, consideration should be given in next year's Management Plan to the appointment of an additional Environment and Development officer.

"Alternatively, council will have to identify which services will be cut or performed at a low level. The position could be partly funded by income from registration of on-site sewage management systems and liquid trade waste fees," Mr Mullins concluded.

However, the issue of funding the plan through on-site registration moneys was objected to by several councillors.

"On-site sewage registration was not meant to be a fundraising venture," Cr Gene Vanzella said.

Cr Audrey McKenzie questioned if the plan was necessary: "There are certainly some issues there that need to be considered, but I thought that was why we had an environmental officer," she said.

Council resolved to establish an advisory committee to formulate and oversee the development of an EMP, but stopped short of giving the green light to implement the plan.