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Biodiversity Certification - Port Macquarie Airport and surrounding lands

Port Macquarie Airport

Biodiversity certification or 'Biocertification' is a process where the NSW Minister for the Environment provides approval for land to be developed, whilst ensuring that strict conservation measures are in place to improve or maintain the overall biodiversity values of that land.

The biodiversity certification agreement represents a significant and strategic long term commitment by Council to secure the ongoing operation and future development of Port Macquarie Airport and the surrounding lands to support the ongoing growth of our region and Port Macquarie as a regional city, while also committing to a sustainable long-term environmental outcome by establishing fully funded, permanently managed and protected conservation areas of ecological importance, to improve or maintain overall biodiversity values in the vicinity of the Airport. 

Biocertification approval means that Council is no longer required to assess impacts to biodiversity values associated with future individual development applications associated with the certified land, as these have already been addressed by the Minister via the biodiversity certification process and proposed permanent conservation measures.

Why is biodiversity certification being undertaken for the Airport and surrounding lands?

The biodiversity certification provides Council with a strategic and sustainable approach to the management and offsetting of environmental impacts associated with the long term operation and future development of essential infrastructure related to the Airport and surrounding lands.

The biodiversity certification paves the way for future development of the Airport as set out in the Port Macquarie Airport Master Plan 2010 (and companion Addendum Report) to cater for forecast growth in air services and passenger numbers while ensuring compliance with Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) aerodrome standards.

In preparing the biodiversity certification assessment and strategy, Council actively sought to avoid and minimise impacts to biodiversity values where possible, noting that impacts associated with the operation of the Airport and compliance with Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) aerodrome standards where often unavoidable.

While the primary purpose of the biodiversity certification is to secure the future development of the Airport along with an appropriate long-term environmental outcome, the approval also supports a number of other key Council projects in the vicinity of the Airport, including:

  • development of Council’s land within Thrumster: Area 13, including the Partridge Creek Residential, Partridge Creek Industrial and West Lindfield neighbourhoods;
  • the upgrading of Boundary Street (within the confines of the existing road reserve);
  • future development of the proposed Airport Business Park to provide new employment lands;
  • future road corridors through the Airport site associated with the strategic road network including the Port Macquarie Orbital Road and flood free access to the Airport as identified in Council’s Urban Growth Management Strategy; and
  • the establishment of water and sewer easements to meet expected future needs of the Thrumster: Area 13 and fire trails within the conservation areas to aid in strategic fire and conservation management.

How will Council improve or maintain biodiversity values?

The biodiversity certification study area encompasses a total area of over 1,000 hectares comprising of the Airport, adjacent Council-owned land and private land located within the Airport obstacle limitation surface (OLS) approach and take-off zones to the north and south of the runway.

118.5 hectares of mapped native vegetation is ear-marked to be cleared over the life of the proposed development.  30% (35 hectares) of this vegetation has already been impacted as a result of previous development approvals for cropping vegetation within the Airport obstacle limitation surface (OLS) zones or Private Native Forestry activities. 70% (80 hectares) is required for the ongoing operation and future development of the Airport in accordance with Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) aerodrome standards.

Council has committed to permanently protect and actively manage 490 hectares of Council owned operational land, some currently private land and some off-site areas for conservation and protection for koalas. This equates to four times the area of vegetation impacted by the proposed future development.

The conservation areas will be secured by registering the areas as a Biobank Site within twelve (12) months of the Minister’s approval and will be recognised as a fully funded, permanently managed conservation measure. The Biobank Site will be actively managed for conservation prior to any clearing associated with the Airport and surrounding lands project.

$2.8 million has been committed for the permanent management of the conservation areas, primarily funded from the Airport Reserve. This will contribute to the active environmental management of the areas, including the establishment and ongoing maintenance of boundary fencing, fire trails and fire breaks, rubbish removal, weed control, and pest and feral animal control activities. This represents a significant and strategic commitment by Council to secure the future development of the Airport and surrounding lands while also achieving a sustainable long-term environmental outcome in the vicinity of the Airport.

The maps below show the biodiversity certification assessment area. The red signifies the land certified under the biodiversity certification approval and the green signifies the proposed biodiversity conservation area. 

 Specified land for devleopment

conservation land to protect

How will Council mitigate impacts on the koala habitat?

The biodiversity certification proposal impacts on approximately 80 ha of vegetation mapped as primary or secondary koala habitat.  This vegetation is primarily located within the Airport obstacle limitation surface (OLS) approach and take-off zone to the south of the runway. The impact on this vegetation is unavoidable to ensure compliance with Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) aerodrome standards and the ongoing safety of aircraft operations at Port Macquarie Airport.

The proposed conservation areas include approximately 350 ha of vegetation mapped as koala habitat and will be permanently protected, fully funded and actively managed for conservation as part of the proposed Biobank Site. This area represents an area four (4) times the size of the koala habitat impacted by the proposed development.

40 – 50 ha of the proposed 350 ha conservation area cannot be met within the study area, and Council has committed to securing this additional area off-site, outside the study area prior to the clearing that creates the demand for this additional area.

The additional area will comprise of Blackbutt Tallowwood dry grassy open forest koala habitat to compensate for koala habitat loss. Council has committed to securing this area by either (in order of preference):

  • securing additional privately owned land within the Port Macquarie–Hastings Council Local Government Area (LGA) offered for sale that provides habitat for these species; or
  • purchasing credits from registered BioBank sites located within the Port Macquarie – Hastings Council LGA; or
  • purchasing credits from registered BioBank sites located outside of the Port Macquarie – Hastings Council LGA; or
  • purchasing the required credits from the proposed NSW Government Biodiversity Conservation Fund, once available.

Prior to commencing any clearing, Council will prepare and implement an environmental management plan and fauna pre-clearance protocol to ensure that appropriate mitigation measures are put in place to minimise impacts to threatened fauna including the koala.

The Thrumster Area 13 Koala Plan of Management will be implemented as required for all Council owned land within the Thrumster Area 13 Urban Release Area including aspects relating to fencing of residential lots, road speed limits, provision of Koala underpasses on arterial and collector roads, protection of preferred koala food trees within residential areas with the exception of those identified to be removed and offset within the conservation lands as part of the biocertification process.

 

The Port Macquarie Airport and surrounding lands biodiversity certification assessment has been undertaken on behalf of Council by accredited environmental consultants Eco Logical Australia. The detailed 'Biodiversity Certification Assessment Report and Biocertification Strategy' was adopted by Council in August 2016.

 

 

 

This page was last updated on: 09 November 2018