Local, Opinion/Comment

Council’s environmental levy funding; A ‘great bag of fruit’

This article focuses around the CHCC allocation of over $1.3 million of ratepayers funds to the environmental levy fund.

By John Cleese

The council proudly boasts this levy only costs ratepayers $44 per year.

People attend a CHCC “Living Lightly Workshop.” Photo; CHCC

I have  been a keen observer of the distribution of the environmental levy funding over the last 15 years.

And I thought it deserved some scrutiny being the super sleuth and all

After analysis of the budget of over $1.3 million per annum, I realised over half the budget went back to the good ole  CHCC.

Specifically, from what I can ascertain, to “the A team”, aka Coastal Works.

The other half of the budget is allocated to so called volunteer groups, with what appears in my opinion to be a rather dubious tendering  process for the larger budget allocations.

With years of dealing with these volunteer groups, it was obvious to me that the steering committee was biased in my opinion towards cattle farmers, many of whom also seemed to have strong links to the National Party.

What a surprise!

Cattle herd tipped to shrink to record low | Coffs Coast Advocate
The preferred demographic for environmental grants>

The whole system was open to nepotism, corruption and incompetence in my opinion. I believe that they surround themselves with incompetents which then makes them look good.

The media portray many as martyrs because they are working for free. I realise many do some amazing work, but some also need to have their use of public money to be audited in my opinion.

Just like councillors, most volunteers have no experience in allocating funding. It is beyond their capabilities. Qualified business managers are needed to oversee both funding and the work itself.

The council does have a tendering process for funding though. It works like this from my experience; the same contractors are awarded the majority of the budget every year because they are the “preferred tenderer”, because they have done it every year.


Competitors are allocated the ‘crumbs’ of the tender (a maximum of 10%) to avoid them complaining to the GM of CHCC about an unfair tender process.

The tendering process is a complete sham in my opinion. There is no holistic approach to the results/history of a potential tenderer.

You cannot manage what you don’t measure.

For example it appears that little environmental assessment is done on sites before or after funding allocations.

It should be all about results. So much money has been squandered on poor sites and/or landowners who did not get rehabilitation works. Invariably the landowners are allowed access  of cattle to revegetation sites where hundreds of  new trees were planted with funding. Inevitably the results are devastating.

Most landowners just ‘shrugged off’ the damage to the young trees. Mostly the only contribution many landowners have made is  the installation of a free fence which is supplied with funding and a $20 annual membership fee.

Although I have no time for Ron L Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, he did made this poignant and relevant statement; “No one appreciates something for free“.

Many of the landowners given monies from Council’s Environmental Fund had no real intention of rehabilitating any of their land from what I could see. Sad but  then there  was no cost benefit in it for them.

The budgets for some these sites could be large but still deliver extremely poor results. Nothing was said to the land owners if results were poor due to cattle intrusions from what I could see.

Another site for funding  was a river stabilisation project in an old quarry. In an effort which recalls Cher ‘s words, “If I could turn back time”, over half a million dollars was spent to correct/re align a river to its old course. Which was bizarre given the huge  gravel extractions in the 1970s.

The money spent was just staggering with combined funding coming from council and state government. The same earth-moving contractors received the contracts with no tender required  from what I could see.

The results? Well they were mixed, but again no assessment was done after the works were completed. After all it is  for the good of the river.

Ratepayers want both value for money and positive results and resultingly need to be clearly informed where our rates are going.

That is certainly not the case at the moment in regards at least to the Environment Levy appropriations in my opinion.


Information on Council’s environmental levy 2020/21 appropriations can be found here; https://www.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au/environment/Projects-and-Strategies/Pages/Environmental-Levy.aspx


  1. Michael Faulkner

    I don’t know the facts of this but, there are lots of insinuations but no facts presented, possibly for legal reasons. There are processes to report both corruption and negligence of local government in NSW which should be used to take up such allegations. If this is not done, i start to doubt the allegations have a basis.

  2. Good luck with local govt /ICAC , I think they are pretty busy dealing with bigger fish like Maguire corruption , $250 million of shredded local govt grants paperwork and a land deal in Camellia where the state govt paid $53 million for contaminated land.

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