Residents urged to form Landcare group

NO trees will be removed from Cathedral Rocks Reserve under Kiama Municipal Council's new plan of management, a public meeting has heard.

Kiama Mayor Brian Petschler and council officers attended a packed Kiama Downs Surf Club last Wednesday to outline the main features of the draft plan.

The plan relies on residents taking ownership of the reserve's future condition.

Several trees have been poisoned at the reserve's southern end in recent years, with one case successfully prosecuted.

"We believe that will create a greater respect for the area and avoid these problems where individuals take it into their own hands," Cr Petschler said.

Kiama Downs resident Jim Bradley, who has conducted rehabilitation work on the reserve for more than 40 years, said the council's two recent decisions to remove trees which had damaged or threatened to damage houses in Kiama indicated it would remove trees on the reserve.

"No degree of smooth talking will change the fact that if Kiama Council ends up approving a [plan of management], that in effect gives silent approval to anyone who has a grudge against trees to kill them," he said.

But Cr Petschler said vegetation was a "shock absorber" for storm surges and the council had no intention of removing any trees.

"What we intend to do is introduce a broader range of native coastal vegetation to complement what's already there, with the aim of providing dune stability," he said.

"Some people said that the council should trim some of the trees to provide enhanced views, but that's probably not going to happen either."

He hoped a Jones Beach Landcare group would be formed, which the council would work with to plant out the bare spots and remove lantana and noxious weeds.

At the meeting, 22 people indicated they would like to be involved in the group.

Mr Bradley also said the council had not guaranteed it would erect screens in areas hit by tree vandalism to remove the reward for vandals, but Cr Petschler said the houses behind the reserve were positioned above the damage.

"All it does is block what had been an access to the beach, but it's not really interfering with views," he said.

The draft plan includes a viewing platform with disabled access at the surf club, treatment of the illegal stairways at the reserve's southern end, safety at the cliff face and vegetation.

Cr Petschler said the issue of stairways built on the reserve without council permission ignited strong views. At this stage the council proposes to work with landholders to upgrade the stairs to meet safety standards and link them with pathways to provide public access to the reserve.

One particularly steep set will be decommissioned.

"There was a fairly vocal view that the stairwells should come out and we'll certainly consider that view," he said.

"There still has to be a way of getting people down to the beach safely."

In May, the Independent reported concerns about residents gardening on the reserve. Cr Petschler said these concerns would be assessed, but felt if they did not restrict access they were likely to remain.

Views expressed at the meeting will be considered as part of the draft, due in the first quarter of next year. A public exhibition period will follow.

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