City changes from gold to green

Gold Coast, Queensland
Gold Coast City Council is on the way to setting a new environmental benchmark. Image: Murray Waite, Tourism Queensland.

By Rachel Borchardt

When rampant developers known as the ‘white shoe brigade’ led the high-rise and canal building boom on Queensland’s Gold Coast in the 1960s and 70s, environmental sensitivity did not appear on the radar.

The tide has been turning since then for Gold Coast City Council, which – having recently voted for a bold new Nature Conservation Strategy – is now well on the way to setting an environmental benchmark for other local governments throughout Australia.

The council aims to have 55 per cent of the city’s land area covered by native vegetation in 2040. According to chairman of the council’s Sustainable City Future committee, Peter Young, the new strategy is a unique step forward for the Gold Coast environment.

“There’s a lot of criticism of the Gold Coast because of the perception that it’s development at all costs,” Cr Young said.

“This document and its full endorsement by council is evidence that even though we welcome and encourage growth we are really sensitive about respecting those natural values which are so incredibly important for our quality of life.”

With the population of the Gold Coast expected to grow by more than 400,000 people in the next 25 years, Cr Young said there was a need for a balanced approach between developers and the environment.

“This kind of strategy gives us the real potential to manage those two issues and ensure that we do protect the areas that we need to protect and that we can properly encourage development where it should be.”

Outlined in the new strategy is continued acquisition of high-end environmental land for protection as well as the mediation and growing of carbon sinks and forests for wildlife.

“We’re looking at continuing and ramping up our schemes where private property landholders can be involved so they can commit their land to conservation purposes, and we provide certain benefits including financial incentives to achieve that,” Cr Young said.

The new strategy represented a complete review of the council’s first nature conservation strategy, “a landmark document”, according to Cr Young, which benchmarked the city’s natural inventory in 1998.  He said it would help ensure local nature conservation issues were recognised.

“We have around 23,000 species of plants and animals on the Gold Coast,” he said.

“We’ve got to do our best to ensure that when we pass on there’s still that same number, if not more.

“It may seem like it’s difficult to do in terms of financial and economic pressures at the moment, in particular, but if you don’t commit yourself to a long-term strategy like this and stay with it then you’re doomed to failure.”

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