10/03/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/02/2019 23:56
Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson today (3 October) released an extensive report card on what Council has delivered in the 2018/19 financial year thanks to the community's Environment Levy.
Mayor Mark Jamieson said Sunshine Coast Council invested $9.7 million into Environment Levy programs, projects and initiatives during the 2018/19 financial year.
'This is just part of the $33 million that Council allocated last financial year on delivering our clear commitment to strengthening our environmental assets and the liveability of our region,' Mayor Jamieson said.
'An important part of Council's work using the Environment Levy is connecting nature and people by providing the community with opportunities to participate in conservation, to experience the natural environment and support our flora and fauna.
'Inspiring and empowering the community to value the environment and play their part in a liveable, sustainable and resilient future is a fundamental goal of our Council.
'Programs like our outstanding Land for Wildlife program - which I understand has the largest membership of any local government area participating in the national program - now has over 1000 registered property owners involved, resulting in over 8,000 hectares of privately-owned land being managed with conservation objectives in mind.
'Buying, protecting and enhancing environmentally-significant land is another key component of growing our conservation estate, and the Environment Levy plays an important role in the pursuit of this objective.
'In the last financial year, the Levy has enabled Council to invest $2.28 million in the purchase of three additional properties across three catchments and allocate $1.28 million to the establishment and management of previously acquired lands.
'As a result, our Council's conservation estate now totals more than 6,900 hectares, which I understand is the largest Council owned conservation estate in south east Queensland.
'Council also provided $622,000 to 22 Environment Levy-partnership groups and four community-based organisations to support their important environmental conservation work.
'We also now have 80 registered properties representing 1,222 protected hectares operating under Voluntary Conservation Agreements.
'Council has also established in the Maroochy River catchment, a 5,000-hectare area which is now the focus of a significant Australian-first partnership known as the 'Blue Heart'.
'This project is aimed at protecting and managing the most critical area of the Maroochy floodplain and providing new opportunities for landowners in terms of the future use of their properties in an environmentally sustainable manner,' Mayor Jamieson said.
'At the core of the Blue Heart floodplain area is around 1,200 hectares of reserves managed by Sunshine Coast Council, Unitywater and the Department of Environment and Science.
'This year the Environment Levy funded a project to better understand the hydrology and ecology of this core Blue Heart area to inform the long-term management of these lands and enhanced habitat to deliver water quality improvements.'
Through the Environment Levy, Council also participated in a three-year research partnership with the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) to increase our knowledge of koala populations and habitats, while also examining koala health and genetic diversity in our region.
Baxter - who joined Mayor Jamieson at the announcement - is one in a team of five detection dogs, specially trained by USC to detect koalas and koala droppings. The dogs undergo intensive training, and are tested thoroughly, before graduating as scat detection dogs.
All the scat dogs are rescued, and share an intense obsession with tennis balls, which allows the researchers to train them to look for a scent in exchange for their reward.
'Our research partnership with USC is just one great example of your Environment Levy in action,' said Mayor Jamieson.
'Findings from the partnership has provided valuable information to guide koala conservation and management actions endorsed through Council's Koala Conservation Plan.
'It was great to see Baxter in action here at the Maroochy Bushland Botanic Gardens today, and it's wonderful to know the research has identified koalas across many localities in our region.'
Mayor Jamieson said Council was looking forward to establishing a new partnership with USC aimed at further protecting Sunshine Coast koalas.
Research fellow from USC's Detection Dogs for Conservation Unit, Dr Romane Cristescu said thanks to Sunshine Coast Council, their team had enjoyed working within their home ground on the Sunshine Coast, for the past few years.
'Sunshine Coast Council was an early supporter of the Detection Dogs for Conservation team at USC. Since its establishment, the team has had many successes, recently receiving the Vice-Chancellor and President's Award for Excellence in Engagement 2019,' said Dr Cristescu.
'We feel very privileged to work with Council and the community here on the Coast. We live and work here, and care very much about protecting our local koalas.
'The use of detection dogs, coupled with non-invasive samples from koala scats, allows us to be very efficient in our field. This means we can collect more data, for less expense, and ultimately gain a more accurate understanding of the koala population.
'We're excited to start a new project with Council to help us better understand how koalas respond to urbanisation.'
The Environment Levy is a key funding source for achieving Council's goal to deliver a healthy environment and liveable Sunshine Coast in 2041 - as outlined through Council's Environment and Liveability Strategy.
Read the full Environment Levy Annual Report via Council's website.