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Council indicates no commitment or intention to maintain infrastructure should it be impacted by sea

Eurobodalla Shire Council apparently decided to abandon millions of dollars of ratepayers’ critical infrastructure in north Batemans Bay to the sea at least three years ago.

Sewage, water and roads in the area would not be defended but instead allowed be swamped by the sea, Council advised residents seeking to upgrade their homes.

Although there was no public announcement, applicants for Development Approvals in Surfside in 2015 were told in the fine print that Council had “no commitment or intention by Council to improve or maintain infrastructure should this be impacted by sea level rise in the future.” This would mean that even those properties which were not directly affected by sea level rise would lose essential services such as sewage, water and road access.

Eurobodalla Coast Alliance President Russell Schneider AM said this was in marked contrast to current commitments “that council is “working responsibly towards engineering solutions that are acceptable to the community”. “I doubt abandoning essential services like water and sewerage would be acceptable to anyone,”he said.

He said it was not clear whether the decision was made by elected Councillors or was an internal management decision.

But it indicated Council management had decided on a policy of so called “planned retreat”, which effectively means abandoning private property and public infrastructure by 2015.

The DA containing the disclaimer by Council was brought to ECA by a Surfside resident who only recently noticed the warning when reviewing their DA.

Above: extract from the DA conditions (full page below)

Mr Schneider has written to Mayor Liz Innes noting that the DA disclaimer preceded her election as Mayor, and asking for clarification of current Council policy. The letter reads:

“Dear Ms Innes

The ECA has asked me to write to you to clarify Council’s position in regards to “planned retreat” arising from possible sea level rise in the future.

ECA members are concerned that a development approval for a Surfside home addition included a warning that Council would not commit to maintaining necessary infrastructure such as sewer, water, stormwater and roads if impacted by sea level rise.

This approval and the disclaimer was provided in 2015, under the previous Council administration.

The warning seems gratuitous unless Council had already decided to adopt a policy of planned retreat.

This would seem to be in stark contrast to your recent comments that council is “working responsibly towards engineering solutions that are acceptable to the community”. We doubt the community would accept a situation in which the Council would not only refuse to protect their homes but did not even attempt to maintain essential infrastructure.

However the waiver in the development approval is more in line with a policy in which Council would abandon its own infrastructure, which has been paid for by ratepayers, as well as imposing draconian restrictions on building approvals: in other words, planned retreat.

(Clause iv of the Advisory Notes in the DA says “ The infrastructure in this area( such as sewer, water, stormwater and roads) may also be subject to sea level rise. At the granting of consent there is no commitment or intention by Council to improve or maintain infrastructure should this be impacted by sea level rise in the future.”

We are sure this is not your position.

ECA would therefore hope that the “planned retreat”, position inherent in the development application is no longer Council policy and that you will ensure this unnecessary and disturbing disclaimer is removed from future approval documents, and appropriate steps are taken to ensure conveyancing solicitors are advised the policy no longer exists. If it is Council policy we would appreciate advice on what other areas will not be defended by Council if predicted sea level rise occurs.

It would also be appreciated if you could advise whether the inclusion of the disclaimer was a unilateral action on the part of Council or its management or whether it was required or suggested by a government agency, and if the latter, which agency.”

February 22nd, 2018 Regards Russell Schneider

Eurobodalla Coast Alliance Media Release

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