Native plants and wildlife

Located in one of the largest natural erosion calderas in the world, the Tweed boasts an internationally significant environment with the highest biodiversity in NSW (top 3 in Australia).

Biodiversity in the Tweed

Biodiversity values

  • About half of the Tweed is covered by bushland (52%, 68571ha). Most of this occurs in steeper areas and outside National Parks. (NPs = 16% area and 29% bush).
  • There are at least 50 distinct vegetation communities. Many of these are highly depleted, inadequately conserved or listed as Endangered under the Threatened species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act).
  • 80% of bushland has high conservation status. Much of this occurs outside of National Parks and along the coastal strip.
  • Some 55 plant species are essentially confined to Tweed Shire and the region supports Australia’s highest concentration of Threatened plant species. There are over 200 significant plant species (207 spp.). Under the TSC Act, one is thought to be Extinct, 25 are listed as Endangered and 29 are Vulnerable to extinction. In addition, some 96 species are ROTAP listed (ROTAP is a national non-regulatory schedule).
  • There are over 100 significant animal species (105 spp.). Under the TSC Act, 17 are listed as Endangered and 88 are considered Vulnerable. Over 50 species of migratory birds protected under international agreements (JAMBA, CAMBA).
  • The vertebrate biodiversity is comparable to the Queensland Wet Tropics.
  • Stott’s Is Nature Reserve declared as Critical Habitat under the TSC act.
  • Tweed occupies a unique and complex landform dominated by the remnant caldera of the Mt Warning shield volcano. It is one of the best and largest examples of its type in the world and is listed on the NSW Geological Heritage Register.
  • Tweed’s National Parks encompass much of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia (external link) World Heritage Area listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Register. For further information see the Heritage Register

Threats to biodiversity in the Tweed

Threats to biodiversity in the Tweed include:

Clearing and fragmentation of native vegetation associated with urban and other development especially along the coast. This issue is an important component of the planning reforms program area. It is recognised at State and National levels as a Key Threatening Process

Draining of swamps and wetlands. This issue is an important component of the planning reforms program area. Recognised at the State level as a Key Threatening Process

Invasion of coastal plant communities by bitou bush and other weeds. Bitou bush is a particularly invasive weed that infests most areas on the Tweed coast. Recognised at the State level as a Key Threatening Process. Much of the Tweed Coast is covered by post-mining regeneration and requires significant intervention to restore it to a near-natural state. For further information please see Weeds

Degradation of riparian habitats by camphor laurel, privet and numerous exotic vines. Riparian habitats have been decimated through out the Tweed and the remaining areas are almost universally degraded by the invasion of these species. Recognised at the State level as a Key Threatening Process. For further information please see Camphor Laurel Trees.

Grazing and disturbance by cattle in riparian and wetland areas. Cattle are commonly able to graze within these sensitive habitats without restriction causing erosion, sedimentation, pollution, physical damage to trees and other habitat and facilitating weed invasion.

Degradation of native vegetation at bushland edges from weed invasion. Fragmentation of natural areas due to clearing creates edges which enable weed invasion and other undesirable influences.

Suppression of native regrowth by camphor laurel and other exotic species - While many exotic weeds persist for the early phases of regeneration, and are eventually out competed by slower-growing but longer-lived native species, camphor laurel is both fast growing and long-lived (300-400yrs). Without active management regrowth forests dominated by camphor laurel may well persist indefinitely

Predation on native fauna by cats, dogs and foxes. These animals prey on many small native mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs. Recognised at State and National levels as a Key Threatening Process. For further information please see weeds.

Barriers to fish movement on freshwater streams. Impoundments and river crossings frequently prevent the normal migratory movements of fish reducing their range and affecting their life cycles.

Competition from exotic birds such as the Indian Myna. This species has only arrived on the Tweed in the last few years but is recognised internationally as one of the top 100 most invasive alien species. It forms aggressive colonies and nests in tree hollows, potentially threatening many parrots, cockatoos, owls, possums and gliders. For further information visit the Indian Myna page.

Competition and poisoning of native fauna by cane toads. This species is also recognised internationally as one of the top 100 most invasive alien species. It is also poisonous to native species (particularly reptiles) that commonly attempt to eat them. For further information visit the cane toads page.

Inappropriate bushfire management. Bushfires that are too frequent are recognised at the State level as a Key Threatening Process. For further information please see lighting fires and permits.

Roadside vegetation management. Large numbers of threatened plants occur along roadsides on the Tweed. For further information see: Roadside Vegetation Management Plan(PDF, 3MB)

Road mortality of native fauna. Cars and trucks represent a considerable threat to some species especially those confined to populated coastal areas. Road kills account for a major source of mortality for koalas in the Tweed.

Biodiversity Development Control Plan

Council's Biodiversity Development Control Plan provides:

  • guidance on the types of habitat that should be retained
  • guidance on the management of ongoing impacts associated with development
  • technical support and guidelines
  • databases (such as threatened species and environmental weed lists) and mapping 

How the plan supports ecological values

The Biodiversity Development Control Plan ensures the planning and design of new development maintains or improves ecological values in the Tweed by:

  • retaining and restoring native vegetation and habitats for native species, in patches that are an adequate shape and size to enable existing plant and animal communities to survive in the long term
  • providing development controls to prevent the degradation of ecological values
  • providing guidance to enable informed decision-making
  • ensuring the construction and operational impacts of development are avoided and/or mitigated using best practice standards
  • compensating for unavoidable habitat losses, in accordance with contemporary best practice

Section A19 - Biodiversity and Habitat Management(PDF, 5MB) applies mostly to larger-scale development on parcels of land that are 2500m2 or more and contain bushland or waterways. It should mean considerable cost savings for proponents of small developments, who will no longer need to commission expensive ecological assessments for smaller developments with low potential impact.

Biodiversity Program

The main target areas include:

  • bushland management and rehabilitation
  • threatened species and communities
  • management of threatening processes.

Areas of responsibility

This Program covers the following areas of responsibility:

  • Biodiversity Policy - Policy to support and streamline Council's planning, development assessment and operational functions relating to biodiversity.
  • Ecological Assessment - Specialist comment and advice on development proposals
  • Community Awareness and Biodiversity Incentives - Projects that raise Council's profile on biodiversity protection and management. Educating the local community on biodiversity values. Providing a point of contact for the community on biodiversity issues. Providing incentives and support for on-ground works on public and private land. For further information see Grants and Incentives.
  • Council Capacity Building - Increasing Council's capacity to efficiently and proactively address biodiversity and natural resource issues
  • Monitoring and Research Partnerships - Collaborative research to answer important ecological questions related to biodiversity management and policy in the Shire. Monitoring of existing biodiversity management programs and policy.
  • Council's Bushland Estate - Coordination and development of natural areas owned or controlled by Council including management of bushfire risks. For further information see Bushland management.

Ecologically sustainable development

Under Section 6 of the Protection of Environment Administration Act 1991 ecologically sustainable development requires the effective integration of economic and environmental considerations in decision-making processes.

Principles and programs

Ecologically sustainable development can be achieved through the implementation of the following principles and programs:

  • The precautionary principle - namely, that if there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation. In the application of the precautionary principle, public and private decisions should be guided by:
    1. careful evaluation to avoid, wherever practicable, serious or irreversible damage to the environment
    2. an assessment of the risk-weighted consequences of various options.
  • Inter-generational equity - namely, that the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment are maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations.
  • Conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity-namely, that conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration.
  • Improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms-namely, that environmental factors should be included in the valuation of assets and services, such as:
    1. polluter pays-that is, those who generate pollution and waste should bear the cost of containment, avoidance or abatement
    2. the users of goods and services should pay prices based on the full life cycle of costs of providing goods and services, including the use of natural resources and assets and the ultimate disposal of any waste
    3. environmental goals, having been established, should be pursued in the most cost effective way, by establishing incentive structures, including market mechanisms, that enable those best placed to maximise benefits or minimise costs to develop their own solutions and responses to environmental problems.

Biodiversity protection and management plans and strategies

Some key documents that underpin Council’s approach to biodiversity protection and management include the following:

State and federal legislation

Other important overarching State and Federal legislation and policy documents that guide biodiversity protection include the following: