ONE OF THE last, and perhaps most controversial actions of the Eurobodalla Shire Council before it goes into caretaker mode, [related to council elections in early December] was the adoption of a zoning plan made by a previous council decades ago.
This old plan advocates the destruction of a large area of Dalmeny bushland for housing development.
When information of such an environmentally-harmful decision leaked to a community still suffering from the effects of climate change, bushfires, and loss of biodiversity, it was met with amazement. Citizens who wished for the plan to be altered or revised in the light of changed circumstances and community attitudes formed a group called ‘Dalmeny Matters’.
Submissions made to the Eurobodalla Shire Council to have the large-scale bulldozing plan rejected or at least postponed for further discussion until after the next council election were defeated 6 votes to 3, but angry opponents decided to continue to continue their fight for the environment.
While extra houses are needed for population growth let such increases be gradual and on already cleared land in a developed area of the state –– not wall-to-wall housing in one of the few remaining areas of land that can truly be promoted by council as ‘Nature Coast’.
Diminishing Nature Coast
This well-deserved reputation comes as a result of Dalmeny’s relatively small human population and proximity to natural bushland, wildlife, rivers and ocean, and not because of artificial attractions, large shopping centres, and suburban development.
One of the brochures issued by Dalmeny Matters urges citizens to request council and state planners to allow continued use of the contested land adjoining the village “for bushwalking, bird watching, bike riding, and general well-being”.
Bulldozing trees old school, bad practice, for all these reasons
Trees are a vital part of this world, and are crucial to our survival. They provide us with the oxygen we need to breathe, as well as shade from the hot sun, shelter for wildlife, and protection for the soil. A plan for immediate, large-scale housing development will involve the destruction of many trees at a time of climate change when they are so urgently needed.
Indigenous people have long appreciated the need to live in harmony with nature, and show respect for the spirit they believe exists within trees — a feeling of wonder that even the non-believer can get listening to the birds, looking up at a magnificent stringybark, or seeing an echidna in the wild.
Steve Parish, naturalist, conservationist, award-winning photographer and publisher is an advocate for improving mental health through nature connection. He writes: “Trees are the planetary icon for nature. They can also become an anchor in our lives, a life-centre for spiritual and physical well-being.”
IMAGE: © Oren Rozensweig
Trees even more important for our children …
don’t want them suffering ‘nature deficit disorder’.
Natural areas with trees (and not just so called ‘green spaces’ with a slippery dip in the middle of a large housing estate) are needed if we wish them to grow into happy, healthy adults with a respect for one another and the natural environment.
In his book Last Children in the Woods, American author Richard Louv, brought together international research to show that connection with the natural world is vital for a child’s successful growth. He coined the term “nature deficit disorder”, and started an international movement to introduce current generations of children to nature.
More green, less screen
More time in nature and less time on digital devices helps improve children’s health and better prepares them for challenges that they will face in a rapidly changing world.
In many European countries learning outdoors is no longer considered peripheral activity because of its widely accepted benefits for academic performance, social interaction and overall well-being.
Finland, for instance, with one of the best school academic achievement results in the world attributes much of its success to outdoor learning.
Australian studies have assessed the positive influences on children’s learning and self-confidence when they are given time in a natural bushland environment to play imaginatively and share experiences with one another, as well as to foster an appreciation of nature.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, open to all young Australians aged 14–16, is designed to better equip participants for life and work. The results of a study conducted by the University of Western Australia attributed improved self-confidence and leadership skills to those who had taken part in the program, along with fostering a spirit of adventure and a deeper understanding of the environment and the great outdoors.
Learn to love the earth — then save it
Education writer David Sobel wrote, “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it.”
We can’t change the world, but we can aim to influence the Dalmeny zoning plan by voting for a future council that cares more for the opinions of the community and the preservation of our unique and precious coastal environment than it does for the creation of another Gold Coast, or Suburbia by the Sea.
MAIN IMAGE: © Neil Cruttenden