Environment at risk through possible levy cut

The Blue Mountains Conservation Society has urged residents to support the continuation of the environment levy in the council's rates review.

The option to remove the current environment levy from next year onwards is being canvassed as part of Blue Mountains City Council's survey on future rates.

"What many people do not realise is that the continuation of the current environment levy is only included in options 1 and 2 [in the council proposals]. In option 3 the levy ceases in 2015," said Blue Mountains Conservation Society president Alan Page.

"The environmental levy was introduced by council in 2005 to fund projects which restore and improve our beautiful local environment. The levy is an additional charge of only $43 per property (less than $1 per week)," said Mr Page.

Paul Vale, convenor of the Blue Mountains Bushcare Network, an active member of a Blackheath Bushcare group, highlighted the importance of the levy.

"In 2012/13 just under $1.5 million was raised by the levy. The funds raised are effectively quarantined and can only be spent by council on identified environmental programs," Mr Vale said.

"Council has used the levy to support and fund local volunteer Bushcare and Landcare groups to undertake bush regeneration and weed control. We are very concerned that if the environmental levy no longer continues past 2015, then Bushcare groups will suffer."

"If you vote for option 1 or 2 in the council rate survey, you will be voting for the continuation of the environment levy. If you vote for option 3 we suggest you write on the survey form the following comment 'While I am voting for option 3, I want the environmental levy to be maintained at the current level'," said Mr Vale.

The environment levy also enables the council to gain significant additional grant funding from government. Funds from the levy are also used to maintain tracks and lookouts on council-managed bushland reserves, as well as environmental education.

The society urges all residents to indicate support for the environment levy in the council's "Resourcing Our Future" rate survey. Responses are required by September 15.

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