FELINE FREE: Council introduces landmark cat ban
IN WHAT could be a Clarence first, a cat ban has been imposed on a subdivision in an effort to protect local wildlife.
Councillor Greg Clancy spearheaded the landmark decision to insert a new condition of consent prohibiting pet cats on a proposed 12 large-lot subdivision on Gardiners Rd, James Creek.
The proposal included clearing 5.74 hectares of native vegetation and could only be permitted following a Biodiversity Development Assessment Report which triggered entry into a biodiversity offset scheme.
The offset scheme allows developers to clear native land if they pay to ensure similar land is protected somewhere else.
While Cr Clancy acknowledged concerns about the loss of habitat and the nature of the BDAR system, he said it was ultimately "a balancing act".
"If we can prohibit cats on the site that will certainly be an advantage for the threatened species in the area," he said.
"Domestic cats kill millions of animals every night … and that doesn't include the feral cats that are widespread throughout Australia.
"So the move to prohibit cats is a balance to the fact we are going to lose some habitat."
The environmental assessment found a number of small marsupials were active throughout the site, including the common planigale, sugar glider, bandicoot and squirrel glider.
During debate Mr Clancy also drew attention to Clarence Valley Council's own Biodiversity Strategy 2020-25, passed at last month's council meeting, which included provisions for restrictions on domestic pets.
The strategy encourages council to "continue to encourage development applications in land containing key habitat areas to include restrictions on dogs and cats, i.e. promote dog and cat free environments, by way of restrictive covenants being a condition of consent".
Cr Clancy's motion, which also sought to change a range of other consent conditions, was backed unanimously by his fellow councillors.
Cr Andrew Baker said it demonstrated council had "huge opportunity" when it came to imposing conditions on development, adding that there were more ways to manage domestic animals during the subdivision process.
"Dogs can be contained within a limited area within the property so that, for instance, 20 per cent of the property is restricted for use by the dogs and 80 per cent is given over for the free passage of wildlife," he said.
Cr Karen Toms commended Cr Clancy on his motion and wondered whether sentiment had changed since her past attempt to pass a similar motion years ago regarding the Lawrence wetlands.
"While I love pussycats, not a lot of owners keep them inside at night or all the time," she said.
"Our native wildlife is precious and this will assist this lovely area along Gardners Rd to keep the native animals."
And in one of the lighter moments of the entire meeting, Cr Clancy drew laughs from throughout the chamber when the dogged environmentalist prefaced his final comments with "It's not easy being green".
"It's not easy being an ecologist and being on council and driving around the Valley seeing the destruction that goes on … we are losing a lot of our biodiversity," he said.
"That's why I get passionate and that's why I fight for the environment.
"It is in everyone's interests that we look after what we have got in this area and we have to be careful with developments we approve.
"I am over the moon to have a development without cats because they just cause so much grief for our wildlife."