The Environment Levy was introduced in the year 2000 to help address the many challenges faced in managing natural resources in the Southern Highlands. In 2016, the Levy was approved in perpetuity, and continues to deliver the community’s environmental goals for the Shire as outlined in the Community Strategic Plan: Wingecarribee 2031+.
The Environment Levy program achieves our community's environmental goals through 4 focused program areas.
Focusing on the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems, improving connectivity between remnant bushland, controlling threats to biodiversity and protecting threatened species such as koalas, and endangered habitats like Mount Gibraltar.
- Mt Gibraltar Quarries Restoration Project
- Native Vegetation Mapping Project
- Private Land Conservation
- Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project
Working with the community and alongside key agencies such as WaterNSW and Local Land Services to improve water quality in key rivers and creeks such as the Wingecarribee River and Mittagong Creek, and improving the health and function of the surrounding riparian areas.
Focusing on reducing waste, fossil fuel usage and improving efficiency while developing programs to help our community to choose to live more sustainably, and supporting initiatives such as solar panel installations and community gardens.
- Sustainable Infrastructure
- Community Assistance Scheme (Environment Levy funded stream)
- Household Chemical Clean-Out
Strengthening the capacity and commitment of the broader community to act together to address environmental issues, including support for our local schools, Bushcare volunteers, community groups and rural landholders.
This also includes support for projects undertaken by community groups and organisations to improve environmental and sustainability outcomes in the local area.
The Environment Levy currently costs the average rate paying household around $50 p.a. (or 96c per week). It raises around $1.18 million annually which is invested directly back into our local environment & community.
With over 4,000ha of bushland reserves, approximately 130km of public waterways, and over 100 species of endangered plants and animals requiring ongoing management, it is essential to make every dollar count. We do this in three main ways:
- We use Levy funds to attract significant amounts of grant funding and other contributions. Since 2012, we have secured over $700,000 in extra funding from other government agencies and organisations to invest in our local environment. We also actively assist our community groups to obtain additional money for special projects.
- We work in partnership with our community and other land management agencies, to share resources and get the best results for our local environment.
- We use scientific research and best practice land management expertise to prioritise and pinpoint the best use of Levy funds in tackling local environmental challenges.
The funds raised from the Levy, combined with well over $1 million in grants that Council has been able to attract because of the strong base provided by the Environment Levy, has allowed our distinct and diverse environment to be enhanced in many ways, including:
- Over 280 ha of bushland regenerated
- Community nursery established to grow plants required for revegetation
- Over 44,000 native plants established on degraded land
- 14.5 km of river/ creek vegetation improved; and
- Over 100 properties (comprising 356 ha of private land) have joined the LinkLand for Wildlife program since 2009.
Since being introduced, a lot has been achieved, not only by Council staff (such as our professional Bushcare crew) but also as a result of the thousands of hours volunteers have contributed to environmental works.
Photos of the creek beside Centennial Park in Bowral prior to revegetation in 2012, and then 18 months later in 2013.
While the physical landscape around us has improved due to the Environment Levy, the funds have also provided many benefits for the humans in our Shire as well. The Environment Levy has provided:
- Continued support for 17 community Bushcare groups with over 170 active volunteers, including the ongoing employment of five professional bush regenerators.
- Ongoing support for other community groups including the establishment of Community Gardens
- Support of community partnerships such as Habitat for Wildlife, Land for Wildlife and voluntary conservation agreements.
- Support for Youth Off the Streets Bushcare activities
- The review of over 400 businesses with threats to pollution removed
Funding and support for numerous events and programs such as School's Environment Day, World Environment Week, National Tree Day, Clean Up Australia Day, Household Chemical CleanOut, film screenings, displays and forums.