Orange City Council's decision to proceed to the next stage in its mountain bike plan exhibits very poor judgement.
Council has announced it is about to submit a Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment (PEIA) to government (Central Western Daily, October 1, 2021) in order to have the project considered for classification as a state significant development.
If the PEIA is acceptable, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment would issue a set of detailed environmental assessment requirements for the project known as SEARs.
I believe Council has been very poorly advised.
The areas where the majority of the trails are proposed is covered by vegetation so rare that it is listed as critically endangered.
This should have been a red flag for the project.
Instead, the council and its consultants chose to ignore it.
In addition, there are up to 20 species and communities on Mount Canobolas for which any harm is considered a Serious and Irreversible Impact (SAII) risking their extinction.
These are also red flags.
Whilst the consultants have tried to avoid known locations of many of these, the preliminary constraints report delivered to council shows they have chosen to ignore or downplay others.
In my view it is unlikely this project will survive the assessment process because harm to Critically Endangered and SAII entities and their habitat must be avoided or offset, and no suitable offset areas are likely to be available.
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