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Councils, community join forces for the environment

Thursday 20 June 2019

Albury and Wodonga Councils are working together to protect the local environment – and the community is being asked to play a key role in determining how it’s done.

The Regional Natural Environment Strategy will provide a cross-border vision to guide both councils in the best ways of managing public reserves and parks, as well as private properties, across both cities so that flora, fauna and the general amenity of our neighbourhoods are preserved and enhanced for future generations to enjoy.

The strategy will determine how each council manages public land and everything that lives upon it, from the smallest insects to the largest animals as well as natural features such as streams, trees and grasslands. It will not only provide direction for the care of more than 6,000 hectares of locally-managed reserves but also to parks and gardens.

However, it’s not just about public places. The strategy also aims to secure significant ‘buy-in’ from private landholders to increase protection of biodiversity in all pockets of our region - so it could even include ways of protecting the inhabitants of your own back yard.

To help us find the best way forward, we’ve recently conducted surveys to gather the thoughts and ideas of the community with separate platforms for children to share their suggestions. As part of this consultation process, we also held community workshops, drop-in sessions and stalls at the farmers’ markets.

A priority is recognition of the culture of the land’s traditional owners and input from the Aboriginal community as custodians of the land for tens of thousands of years has been a key part of the consultation process.

The project is a true cross-border collaboration with the border itself – the Murray River – being a central component of the strategy. This means the river is not a division between people, but actually a uniting factor of the strategy and also symbolic of the close co-operation of the two councils under the Two Cities One Community partnership.

Some of the bigger targets of the strategy might include protecting the 63 endangered animal and plant species in our region, such as the squirrel glider or spider orchid. However, there will also be a strong focus on our environment’s common features, such as the insects that help to provide the food we eat and the trees that contribute to the air we breathe.

These will all be critical parts of the strategy to guide us through the rapid growth of both cities, ensuring we achieve that growth with a manageable impact on issues such as land clearing, loss of habitat, threats from feral species and the effects of climate change.

The strategy will provide a regional blueprint to achieve these aims, reducing duplication, creating a united voice for advocacy and providing a clearer understanding of the problems and challenges for government agencies and others to make a real difference.

However, it’s not just a matter for scientists and policy-makers. We can all contribute by making changes in and around our homes. These changes could be as simple as adopting wildlife-sensitive practices around pet ownership, creating wildlife-friendly gardens and creating habitat for those species we want to protect.

I’d like to thank everyone who’s contributed so far, whether through the on-line surveys, workshops or drop-in sessions.

This input has been vital to determine not only the issues of importance to the community but also to harness the knowledge, ideas and creativity of the people who call our region home.

The next step will be to develop a draft strategy that will go on public exhibition for more community feedback.

From there, we’ll be well placed to present a united effort in making sure our beautiful natural environment and the amazing creatures that live there are preserved for future generations to enjoy – thanks once again to a productive partnership between our community and their two councils.