Coastal Panels and E-Zones in the Eurobodalla
In response to The Beagle opinion article “the edge of a slippery slope appears”, I applaud the vigilance of NSW Coastal Alliance members in other parts of the State who alerted us to the land expropriation being planned for Wharf Road, North Batemans Bay. The scheme to expropriate submerged lands without compensation was initiated by the NSW Coastal Panel. This Panel is an appointed advisory group who will wield great power over coastal management issues and coastal development and mitigation decisions under the NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes’ new Coastal Management Act.
At their meeting of 25th August 2016, the Coastal Panel commended the Eurobodalla Shire Council for "preparing a CZMP for this coastal hotspot area which presents a good strategic pathway forward for managing this problematic area that builds on the recent E2 Environmental Conservation and W1 Natural Waterways re-zonings within the subject area".
An Environmental Conservation Zone (E 2) is described by the NSW Department of Planning as applying to “areas with high ecological, scientific, cultural or aesthetic values outside national parks and nature reserves". It is impossible to relate any of these characteristics to the highly degraded and eroded shoreline of the Wharf Road area in North Batemans Bay, where half of the old land subdivision has slipped into the sea.
According to Council’s agenda paper PSR16/044 (Certification of Wharf Road CZMP) dated 22 November 2016 “The land at Wharf Road is highly constrained by natural hazards and is not suitable for development. The land is zoned E2 under the Eurobdalla LEP as a reflection of these constraints”.
In other words, the ESC has applied E2 zoning to an area of degraded estuary foreshore, not because of its environmental value, but because this zoning enables them to prohibit any type of development in that area. A junior council officer in any of our many NSW coastal shires might be excused for inadvertently misusing the highest environmental zoning outside of national parks in this manner, but not the highly acclaimed NSW Coastal Panel.
If you do not own any of the submerged or partially submerged land in Batemans Bay you might ask why you should be concerned about the misuse of environmental zones and the State Government’s complicity in this action.
Firstly, consider Council’s indiscriminate use of E-zones in the development of the rural section of the Eurobodalla LEP and the grief caused to our rural community. Even now, after the development of a sensible rural lands strategy steered by a select committee of local rural experts, the NSW Office of Heritage and Environment is raising objections to the new strategy and removal of the restrictive E3 environmental zones.
Secondly, consider Council’s E2 zoning of the Batemans Bay Water Gardens (together with an EEC rating) that has been used as the reason bat roosting vegetation was not removed as part of the flying fox dispersal program. The gardens were planted and opened just 17 years ago. Special environmental conservation areas and endangered ecological communities do not develop in that space of time.
Thirdly, consider that the Eurobodalla Shire Council elected to zone most of its sea and lakefront recreational reserves E2 (Environmental Conservation). If E2 zoning restrictions and revegetation requirements are enforced, no concrete bike paths or walkways would be allowed in these areas. The revegetation requirement, if implemented, would soon remove the views enjoyed by those houses facing ocean and lake front reserves.
We have a fantastic coastal environment that must be protected, but the Eurobodalla has suffered enough from environmental extremism. People should be very concerned that environmental zones have been misused by our Council in the past, and that this practice now appears to be encouraged by a State Government panel of experts who should know better.
31st December 2016