Dear Beagle Editor,
Under the new NSW Coastal Management Act, Coastal Management Plans (CMP’s or CZMP’s) will dictate the future of development along the NSW coastline.
The Eurobodalla Shire Council prepared a CZMP covering Wharf Road, North Batemans Bay in June 2016. It was submitted to the NSW Planning Minister for approval, but returned with advice that the CZMP could not be approved without recommended “minor” changes.
The Coastal Panel asserted that “submerged lands automatically revert to the Crown, therefore are not required to be acquired. This should correctly be reflected in the plan.”
The Coastal Panel also lauded the Council for building on its recent E2 environmental zonings within the subject area.
In response to the Coastal Panel’s advice and Planning Minister’s direction, Council has stated in its revised CZMP that the owners of the submerged land have automatically lost their land by "silent transfer" to the Crown. To quote the CZMP, "the submerged lots and those areas of the beach below high water have automatically been vested in the Crown". No court decision, just an interpretation of the law by Council staff and the Coastal Panel.
If public servants are going to determine statute of this magnitude, every coastal ratepayer has a problem. Public servants are there to administer established legislation, not to interpret the law and make up their own rules. What is more, the "law of accretion", which is the law council is trying to interpret, only applies if the land is lost gradually and by natural causes. It is common knowledge that the Surfside land eroded as a result of the construction and extension of the training wall on the southern bank of the estuary. This was neither a natural or gradual (imperceptible) process.
Of equal concern is Council’s use of E2, the highest non-national park environmental protection zoning in NSW, on the Wharf Road land that is above the high water mark.
This special environmental zoning was not used to protect the land, which is degraded and void of any environmental attributes. It was intentionally used to sterilise the land and extinguish the land owner’s development rights. This is misuse and abuse of environmental zones. It is an open attack on the property rights of NSW residents.
Imagine the implications if any lands that are eroded by the sea or flooded due to sea level rise, are automatically lost to the government without any legal process or recourse. Imagine the consequences if councils can abuse the environmental zoning system to sterilise developable urban land through the misuse of "E" zones, a practice that has been applauded by the Coastal Panel.
BEWARE any beachfront property owners in Surfside, Long Beach, Maloneys, Broulee and Tomakin. BEWARE those low lying estuary dwellers from Durras to Akolele. BEWARE commercial property owners in Batemans Bay, Moruya and Narooma.
The NSW Coastal Panel plays an important regulatory role under Planning Minister Rob Stokes’ “innovative” Coastal Management Act. But how can anyone trust a Minister or a statutory NSW Government body that promote the expropriation of private lands by stealth, and the misuse of environmental zoning provisions to further their coastal management objectives?
This occurs at a time of consultation for a proposed Coastal Management SEPP that mandates that Councils must be satisfied that they have considered the implementation of timed development consent, temporary buildings and temporary use of land for development in coastal vulnerability areas.
There is a scarcity of quality tourist developments in the Eurobodalla, which is a shire highly dependent on tourism for its existence. Batemans Bay is the tourist gateway to the Eurobodalla. Not long ago, the semi-submerged Wharf Road site was proposed for redevelopment as a tourist and local community facility that would improve public amenity and access to Batemans Bay waterways.
Did anyone examine the option of re-zoning this land for a major tourism complex, subject to the developers bearing the cost of the revetment wall and beach nourishment, to protect and restore the site? This option would provide the current owners, who stand to lose millions, with a saleable commodity, provide the new owners and the town with a superb tourism development site, and provide the residential area at the rear with a revetment wall to protect it against future storms and sea level rise.
This solution would cost the shire nothing and create badly needed employment opportunities for the town. Council would increase its rate-base, and help transfer the growing burden of rates to commercial development, while restoring valuable land and public amenity.
It might also restore a little faith in the NSW Coalition Government that has so far geared all of its coastal management solutions around destructive enviro-centric ideologies that ignore the social and economic needs of coastal communities.
At the very least the Eurobodalla Shire Council and the Baird Government are obliged to consider all of the defensive options in Coastal Management Plans before following the Greens doctrine of “planned retreat”, as has occurred at Wharf Road.
Eurobodalla Regional Coordinator
NSW Coastal Alliance