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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

The edge of a slippery slope appears

Dear Beagle Editor, I have received the following email and it gives me concern, Certification of Wharf Road Coastal Zone Management Plan – Batemans Bay

On 28th June 2016 the Eurobodalla Shire Council adopted a draft Coastal Zone Management Plan for Wharf Road, North Batemans Bay (PSR16/020)

That plan proposed the voluntary acquisition of around 40 fixed boundary allotments, either fully or partially submerged as a result of foreshore erosion and recession on the Surfside foreshore.

On 22 November 2016 Council adopted a revised Wharf Road Coastal Zone Management Plan that included changes requested by NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes, on advice from his Coastal Panel. One of these changes “CONSIDERED MINOR IN NATURE”, called for the expropriation of all of the submerged allotments, and presumably those partially submerged WITHOUT ANY COMPENSATION.

It is inconceivable that a conservative coalition government could promote and support such a barbaric and “communistic” action. It epitomises the circumstances that are turning every day citizens against the establishment and major political parties, right around the world.

As far as the Wharf Road allotments are concerned, it is worth noting that contrary to anecdotal information reported by consultants, old time residents have confirmed that the majority of the estuary erosion at Surfside occurred late in the last century, and not gradually over the 90 years that the subdivision has existed. It is further reported that the erosion and foreshore recession were most likely the result of the construction and extension of the training wall on the south side of the estuary. No comprehensive sediment distribution studies have been undertaken to establish who or what was responsible for the change in sand movement and deposition locations within or outside of the inner bay.

These issues were not examined in the case of the EPA v. Eric Saunders and it is considered the Minister and the Coastal Panel may have exceeded their authority in suggesting that this case is a precedent in the ownership of submerged lands, and effectively instructing the Eurobodalla Shire Council to accept their views on that legal decision. The ownership issue has never been tested at law, and councillors should have been properly briefed on the matter before being asked to vote in support of the expropriation of private lands without compensation.

It should also be blatantly obvious that the NSW Government may have an ulterior motive in rejecting a Coastal Management Plan that includes a land buy back or compensation component. The Coastal Management SEPP 2016, supporting its Coastal Management Act, all but sterilizes land within its declared (but as yet mostly undeclared) vulnerable areas. If compensation was accepted as a component in the associated cost benefit analyses, it would swing the management solutions in favour of planned defence and mitigation.

The 2016 SEPP makes it very clear that the Minister, his Department, and the Office of Heritage and Environment appear to be promoting a policy of “planned retreat” for vulnerable coastal properties, without compensation. In adopting the Wharf Road Coastal Zone Management Plan, it is considered the Eurobodalla Shire Council is endorsing this policy, and must be aware of the ramifications when it comes to other vulnerable areas in the shire, including the CBD’s of its three major towns. signed Name withheld In light of the above many in the community believe that the newly elected Eurobodalla Councillors should now ask Eurobodalla Council staff if there is any substance in what has been written and if so will this have a wider impact to the properties in Eurobodalla (and the rest of NSW) that are subject to "inundation". Many also feel that the minor revisions were not at all MINOR and by being referred to as minor in the report failed to highlight the importance of the issue at hand and the consequence of a vote to support the staff recommendation. Council received advice from the Minister on 25 October 2016 which stated the Plan can be certified, providing it is re-submitted with some minor revisions. a minor revision such as Action (1) of the implementation strategy (Table 5) seeks to “make application for the purchase of tidal and sub-tidal private properties and beaches at Wharf Road”. It is the view of the Coastal Panel that the judgment in ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AUTHORITY v. ERIC SAUNDERS [1994] NSW LEC 187(29 November 1994), offer the view that submerged lands automatically revert to the Crown and therefor are not required to be acquired. This should correctly be reflected in the Plan. How many of our new councillors have a legal background? Enough of a background maybe to ask: "Is the Coastal Panel view backed by tested law as it appears that their view has set the justification in the plan to offer no compensation to submerged lands?" Additionally a Councillor might offer: "Their views do not mention any extent of to the term "submerged". Exactly what is Council's definition of submerged and it the term to cover total submersion or will it include partial submersion and at what legal height, such as mean high water, will the submersion be measured?" All in all this is most concerning. To have such a complex and consequential report handed to a mostly green newly elected Council to digest, comprehend, and determine as part of a much larger 98 page agenda is, to say the least, questionable. Name and address supplied

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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