A new plan to preserve and enhance biodiversity in the City has been released, with Council last week placing its draft Urban Ecology Strategy on public exhibition.
The plan, which has been promised for most of the time I’ve been on Council, sets out how the City will manage the small amounts of natural habitat and biodiversity that it retains from before European invasion as well as outlining steps to create new habitat and increase the populations of struggling species. The plan follows on from some good work that the City has done over the last few years, such as establishing an artificial wetland habitat in Sydney Park, and in the areas it covers I think it does very well.
However I think the plan falls a little short with the things that it doesn’t deal with. Two areas in which I feel the plan is lacking is in recognising the importance of non-endangered wildlife and in dealing with marine biodiversity, and I’ll discuss these in more details below.
Non-endangered wildlife is of course the bulk of the wildlife we see in the City. It includes animals like brush-tailed possums, sulphur-crested cockatoos and rainbow lorikeets. The draft Strategy mostly ignores these species, except for a few paragraphs describing them as potential ‘nuisance fauna’ and talking about ways to deal with them when they are found in large numbers. I think this is a poor approach to take.
While preserving the populations of these animals that we find in the City may not be essential to the survival of their species they are essential to giving us a living City. They are the creatures that have adapted to be able to survive in the artificial environments we have created and while they may exist in greater density than in the wild, and live in a different way to their brethren in natural environments, they are what we have to work with.
Many of the other species that would have lived in what is now the City prior to the arrival of Europeans are long gone and will likely never come back. We should embrace the few wild things that we’re still lucky enough to have in the City as part of a new nature, not cast them aside because they don’t match the way nature used to be.
The topic of marine environments is also one I feel the Strategy should deal with but doesn’t. Marine environments have generally been tricky for Councils as our authority stops at the high water mark. However with some creative thinking there are ways that Councils can still have a positive impact on the waterways that adjoin their land. A prime example can be seen in this idea put forward several years ago by former Greens Councillor Chris Harris.
At the time Council unanimously supported Chris’ motion and when staff got around to responding a few months later we were told that the issue would be dealt with in the Urban Ecology Strategy. Sadly the draft Strategy that has been placed on public exhibition contains little mention of marine environments, apart from a small but positive plan to ‘renaturalise’ Johnsons Canal and support the surrounding stands of mangroves.
I’d thus call on anyone passionate about our urban environments to make a submission to Council while the plan is on exhibition by going to http://sydneyyoursay.com.au/article/make-friends-with-urban-wildlife-and-create-biodiversity-for-a-liveable-city. The plan is long but it’s an interesting document, and you don’t have to read the whole thing to make a submission anyway. Submissions are open until the 20th of September.
Despite the couple of negative comments I’ve made above I feel this is a really good plan – I’m glad our Council has decided to put together a strategy such as this and am grateful for all the hard work City staff have put in to developing it over the last few years. The Strategy will be a positive roadmap to improving our urban biodiversity and with the right input from concerned members of the public it could be even better.