THE last potential link between the Blue Gum Hills Regional Park and the Hunter’s Green Corridor project has been lost due to the rezoning of a parcel of land at Fletcher.
Newcastle City Councillors voted seven to six last week to rezone a 26.4 hectares lot at 505 Minmi Road to low-density residential.
The Lower Hunter Green Corridor is meant to be a continuous corridor of native vegetation stretching from the Watagans to Stockton.
However, the pressures of urban development on the fringes of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie over the past decade have significantly undermined the vision.
The corridor was also meant to link to several conservation projects, such as the Blue Gum Hills Regional Park.
Green Corridor Coalition spokesman Brian Purdue said the loss of the Minmi Road site was a major concern.
‘‘The original green corridor vision statement was to connect all of the national parks,’’ he said.
‘‘We have done that with the main green corridor, which goes from the tank paddock up to Sugarloaf and Port Stephens, but there’s no connection left to the regional park.’’
Office of Environment and Heritage officers expressed concern in July that the loss of habitat resulting from the rezoning would not be adequately compensated.
‘‘Having used the Biobanking Assessment Methodology, the biodiversity offset strategy identifies that there is a credit shortfall of 408 (or approx 40 per cent deficiency from achieving an ‘improve or maintain’ outcome for biodiversity values,’’ a report to councillors said.
The office later gave conditional approval to a biobanking agreement for the site.
A NSW Rural Fire Service report also raised concerns about the rezoning proposal.
‘‘The RFS still has concerns with access between the two precincts of residential areas creating a pinch point that would be unsafe during a bush fire even,’’ a report said.
Greens councillor Michael Osborne, who voted against the rezoning, said he was concerned the community did not have an adequate opportunity to comment.