On Wednesday 7th June, the Bay Post reported that the Mayor went to Sydney on 31st May to complain to NSW Planning Minister, Anthony Roberts, about the delay in signing off on the Eurobodalla Rural Lands Strategy.
The week before, on the 23rd May, the Eurobodalla Shire Council including Councillor Innes, endorsed version three of the Wharf Road Coastal Zone Management Plan.
If my memory serves me correctly, the Rural Lands Committee was formed after a huge outcry from the rural community in 2012 following the release of the Local Environmental Plan (LEP). That outcry was prompted by Council’s reckless application of Environmental Protection Zones (E-Zones) to our rural lands. This zoning if implemented, would have sterilised the farming value of many farms and rural allotments, and damaged rural land values.
At the same time, council planners E-zoned a lot of urban land, including the remaining foreshore land in the old Wharf Road subdivision in North Batemans Bay. This zoning sterilised the development potential of that land, and destroyed its urban land value.
Perhaps the Mayor could explain the difference between what was going to happen to our rural landholders, and what has happened to the Wharf Road property owners.
I have been a strong supporter of the Rural Lands Strategy, but I am also a strong advocate for the property rights of all other coastal landholders. It is time for this Council to treat all ratepayers equally, and to get rid of these double standards.
I was not permitted to speak on the Wharf Road Coastal Zone Management Plan at the last Council meeting, but that has not dissuaded the NSW Coastal Alliance from pushing the case for the current Wharf Road plan to be scrapped and a practical engineering solution developed.
I have not been invited to speak with Minister Roberts, but I have sent him the following letter:
Hon Anthony Roberts M.P.
GPO Box 5341
Sydney NSW 2001
Dear Minister Roberts,
Re; WHARF ROAD, BATEMANS BAY – COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT PLAN (CZMP)
On Tuesday 23rd May the Eurobodalla Shire Council voted in support of “version three” of the Wharf Road -Coastal Zone Management Plan.
This plan will presumably be referred to you or Minister Upton for approval in the coming weeks.
You should be aware that this plan embodies coastal management principles that do not belong in Australia. Certainly, they do not reflect the Liberal Party values that many of our members and the general membership or your party have grown to expect.
The Wharf Road CZMP informs the owners of now submerged lands in the old Wharf Road subdivision that ownership of their Torrens title allotments has been forfeited to the State.
The land that remains above the high water mark has had its development potential extinguished by its rezoning to E2, the highest non- National Park environmental protection zoning in the State.
The CZMP adopts the policy of “planned retreat “without due consideration of defensive engineering solutions that could have been canvassed and adopted.
Although the reference to the Coastal Panel’s edict on land forfeiture has been removed in the latest version of the CZMP, that decision remains in the Coastal Panel’s minutes, and nothing has been done to assure the owners that this approach is no longer supported by the State Government.
Council’s action in sterilising the remaining foreshore land through the use of environmental protection zoning may have been endorsed by your department, but it reflects very poorly on your Government’s regard for property rights. The subject land fails to meet any of the stated criteria for E2, or any other environmental protection zone. To sterilise the land and then propose voluntary acquisition at the sterilised value, is an insult to the owners and a warning to all coastal residents in NSW.
Why didn’t the local council, or the Coastal Panel, properly examine the defensive engineering options available to reinstate the subdivision? This again reflects poorly on a Government that has tried to sell its new Coastal Management Act on the pretence that “planned retreat” is not government policy.
The Wharf Road subdivision is in a protected estuary and not a beach location like the other NSW “hot spots”. Research recently conducted by the NCA’s Regional Co-ordinator in the Eurobodalla, and a retired engineer living in the Surfside/Wharf Road area, demonstrates that contrary to council and Coastal Panel folklore, the Wharf Road subdivision did not erode “gradually and imperceptibly “ over the last century.
In a nutshell, the sand spit that protected the Wharf Road subdivision and West Surfside, was eroded away in the late 1950’s,1960’s and early 70’s primarily as a result of dredging activity. Indiscriminate dredging removed the natural protection, and the Wharf Road subdivision suffered the full force of a one in one hundred “super storm” in May 1974.
The sand shoals that once protected our northern beaches have been hugely depleted by dredging activities in the estuary. The dredged materials now form the Corrigan’s Beach recreation area to the south east of the township. This huge area of supposedly” accreted” land, is where most of the spoils were dumped, and land reclaimed to levels of between 2.5 and 3.5 metres AHD.
Decimation of the Wharf Road subdivision was no act of God, climate change, or other natural forces. It was originally caused by human activity at a time when we must assume the authorities did not realise the consequences of their actions. Ignorance of the adverse effects of dredging is not an excuse in this day and age, but your Government was still dredging the area as late as December 2016 without appropriate safeguards to prevent further erosion of the northern shoal.
This information was obtained and verified by old time Batemans Bay residents, with the assistance of the local on-line newspaper, the Beagle Weekly. A full report is in preparation.
In recognition of government involvement in the demise of the Wharf Road subdivision, and in the interests of the Wharf Road Property owners, the NCA requests that you reject the Wharf Road Coastal Management Plan in its present form. We ask that you send it back to the Eurobodalla with a request that Council re-examines the defensive engineering options available, and prepare a management plan based on “defence” instead of “retreat”.
Alternatively, you might consider voluntary acquisition of all of the land at a fair and equitable valuation based on its current reinstated value, less the estimated 1.6 million reinstatement costs.
If the Wharf Road CZMP is approved in its present form, the precedents set here will have serious ramifications for properties affected by coastal hazards and sea level rise in the future. Needless to say, the NSW Coastal Alliance will not stand by and see the property rights of coastal residents eroded in this manner.
Eurobodalla Regional Coordinator
NSW Coastal Alliance
C.C. Hon. Gabrielle Upton