Under the Coastal Management Act 2016 and the State Environmental Planning Policy (Coastal Management) Port Stephens has five sites classified as Littoral Rainforest; including 3 patches at Soldiers Point – Green Play Point, Kent Gardens, and George Reserve, the other patches being located near Homestead St Salamander Bay, and Nelson Head, Nelson Bay.
Port Stephens Council is required under legislation to protect and enhance Littoral Rainforest under its care and control (Coastal Management Act Section 6(2))
Council uses generic and specific plans of management to set framework for managing council land and council land with significant environmental values under the Local Government Act 1993.
Under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 it is an offence to damage the habitat of a threatened species or ecological community.
to conserve biodiversity and maintain ecosystem function in respect of the land, or the feature or habitat in respect of which the land is categorised as a natural area
to maintain the land, or that feature or habitat, in its natural state and setting
to provide for the restoration and regeneration of the land
to provide for community use of and access to the land in such a manner as will minimise and mitigate any disturbance caused by human intrusion.
What is littoral rainforest?
Littoral Rainforest is recognised by its close proximity to the ocean (generally< 2km) and closed canopy (i.e. ~70% of the sky obscured by tree leaves and limbs). Vegetation structure can range from low thickets in wind exposed environments to tall forest in more protected sites. The plant species in this ecological community are predominantly rainforest species with moist, evergreen, leathery leaves and vines may be a major component of the canopy. Whilst dominated by rainforest species, scattered individuals of sclerophyllous (hard-leaved) plants, such Eucalypts may also be present.
The floral assemblage at Green Play Point and Yachett point align with the NSW Scientific Committee's determination of what constitutes Littoral Rainforest.
Under the new Coastal Management Act 2016 and the State Environmental Planning Policy (Coastal Management) Port Stephens has 4 sites classified as Littoral Rainforest; Soldiers Point contains 3 of these including Green Play Point, Kent Gardens, and George Reserve, the other sites being located near Homestead St, Salamander Bay, and Nelson Head, Nelson Bay.
You can view the criteria for classification of Littoral rainforest here:
What sites of littoral rainforest are subject to the management plan?
The sites subject to the management plan are Green Play Point, Kent Gardens, and Yachett Point Reserves. These sites are in particular danger of degrading past the point of restoration. The NSW Environmental Trust has partnered with Port Stephens Council to develop management plan to protect and enhance the Littoral Rainforest on these sites.
Why is it important to protect and manage the littoral rainforest?
Beyond our legislative obligations to manage endangered ecological communities, Port Stephens Council is committed to sustainable development that produces a ‘great lifestyle in a treasured environment’. Supporting and protecting threatened species and ecological communities is important for biodiversity, intergenerational equity, and Port Stephens' identity as a region with a beautiful natural environment.
How is PSC managing other littoral rainforest sites in the LGA?
Port Stephens Council is aware of currently unmapped and unprotected patches of Littoral Rainforest across the LGA. Our Environmental Trust grant over the next three years aims to map and gazette these sites to bring their management in line with Green Play Point.
What statutory responsibilities does Council need to adhere to in regards to littoral rainforests and the Soldiers Point littoral rainforest sites?
Council must meet all its statutory responsibilities under relevant legislation and other NSW government regulations and guidelines as applicable. Some of the key legislation impacting on this project include:
What is the land zoned and categorised as?
The site is currently zoned RE1 under the Port Stephens Local Environmental Plan 2013 (LEP). Zoning regulates land use with the objectives of this zone to enable land to be used for public open space or recreational purposes and to protect and enhance the natural environment for recreational purposes.
Land categorisation provides direction to the management of the area and is determined by the Local Government Act 1993. The site is categorised as Natural Area (foreshore).
Key features of the categorisation being:
Council is not proposing to change the existing zoning or categorisation of the Green Play Point site.
How will the weeds be managed?
In drafting the management plan we can consider site specific issues related to weeds. A point to note though is that a rehabilitated littoral rainforest can become self-sustaining to a degree, healthy communities outcompete weeds.
The area subject to the management plan has a number of priority weeds, and other weeds that effect and transform the environment. For more info on Priority weeds in PSC, please visit our website
PSC has prioritised the area subject to this management plan highly in their Natural Area Restoration program for the last 15 years. This will not change and PSC will continue to control weeds here in perpetuity. The NSW Environmental Trust grant has provided extra funding to control weeds over the next three years.
What will be the impact on the local Koala population?
There has been some concern around the impact of the management plan on the koalas - specifically:
Concern: Allowing the undergrowth and fallen logs etc. would make it difficult for koalas to traverse the corridor and slow them down (making them easy prey for predators).
Our response: Koalas have evolved alongside native vegetation communities. Re-establishing bushland sites back to their natural state will in no way impede koalas, this is what they are used to. Typical good condition koala habitat (eucalypt forests) have similar understories (scrub, bush, fallen logs, etc.) this has no impact on Koala presence and survival.
Concern: Rehabilitating the littoral rainforest would change the overall composition of the vegetation and potentially out-compete the koala feed trees on site.
Our response: There are very few koala feed trees in the rainforest area at the site. There are some in the transition or cleared areas. Koala feed trees do not grow naturally in rainforest, although emergent eucalyptus do occur in rainforest. Council will not be suggesting the removal of any koala feed trees and any removal would have to be in line with our own tree management policy that has strict criteria for permitting removal.
Will the management plan take into consideration/address/resolve safety risks related to Fire and Storm Damage?
Safety is an important consideration for developing the specifics of the management plan. Tree selection and location for the rehabilitation aspect of the management plan will have due regard to storm risks. PSC will continue to consult with the community on this issue throughout the development of the management plan.
What options will a management plan consider?
This site specific management plan will consider values, threats, constraints and opportunities of the site in relation to safety, access and egress, fire risk, storm damage and falling trees/limbs, amenity, recreation, rainforest rehabilitation and PSC obligations for managing this endangered ecological community under the legislation.
Who gets to have a say in developing the management plan?
Council will consult widely with the community of Port Stephens in developing the management plan and there will be multiple opportunities for people to have their say. We have a dedicated project page on Council’s Have your say website https://haveyoursay.portstephens.nsw.gov.au/littoral-rainforest-project-green-play-point