The Beagle Editor, Your readers, following the Wharf Road, Surfside issue and the wider issue of the impacts of the Coastal Zone Management Plan on properties that front the Clyde River from the Bateans Bay CBD to Hanging Rock might be interested in a letter that has now been sent to the NSW Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Gabrielle Upton, MINISTERIAL COMPLAINT
Hon. Gabrielle Upton,
NSW Minister for the Environment
Dear Minister Upton,
Re: Wharf Road - North Batemans Bay – Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP)
In a mayoral minute released on 26th June 2018, the Eurobodalla Shire Mayor Ms Liz Innes announced your certification of the Wharf Road CZMP. You should be aware that this is an extremely contentious environmental plan because it epitomises the worst aspects of OEH coastal management practices, and the disregard our council and your Department has shown for the property rights of Eurobodalla coastal residents.
The Plan was predicated on an assumption by the Coastal Panel that the damage to the old Wharf Road subdivision was the result of “slow and imperceptible” erosion, and the presumption that “submerged lands automatically revert to the Crown” (See the Panel’s meeting 31 minutes). The reference may have been removed from the final draft of the CZMP, but your Department did nothing to refute the Coastal Panel’s edict, or to request the withdrawal of Council’s W1 (Natural Waterway) rezoning of the inundated lands.
You signed off on this CZMP in full knowledge that the remaining foreshore land had been downzoned to environmental protection zone E2. This land does not begin to meet the E2 zoning criterion, and the environmental zoning was in our opinion misused for the purposes of sterilising its development potential, and to facilitate a “buy back” at a sterilised market value.
You signed off this CZMP when your Department was fully aware of the existence of a professionally prepared report (The Sethi Report) that uses the local council’s own reports to show that the Wharf Road erosion was caused by engineering works undertaken by the NSW government. Your Department was also well aware that the findings in this report had been endorsed by a prominent Australian coastal engineer.
The day before your certification of the Wharf Road CZMP was announced, the General Manager of the Eurobodalla Shire Council (ESC) informed the President of the Eurobodalla Coast Alliance (ESC) Mr Russell Schneider, that “Wharf Road was washed away by major floods and storms in 1954 and again in 1959”. These are the flood events that coincided with the construction of the Batemans Bay bridge and have been identified in the Sethi report as a secondary cause of the Wharf Road erosion.
It demonstrates that this Council knew all about the damaging effects of the bridge pylons while supporting the Coastal Panel edict that the erosion was gradual. It is implausible that your Department and the Coastal Panel were not privy to this information.
It is our contention that you have certified a CZMP without due consideration of all the available facts.
You have also certified a CZMP that sets precedents for the misuse of environmental zonings and the illegal expropriation of inundated Torrens title land.
The ESC submission to the RMS for Council to reclaim the subdivision for its own purposes, “when it was back in public hands”, is a clear demonstration of the level of the chicanery that we have observed in the preparation of the Wharf Road CZMP.
It is the owners of the land in question who must now decide what action, if any, they will take to recover their lost assets, or obtain fair and just compensation for their losses.
The NSW Coastal Alliance expresses its concern at your decision to certify this flawed CZMP, and wishes to determine whether the precedents established in the Wharf Road CZMP will be applied generally to the resolution of similar coastal management issues in the future:
Could you please advise:
Will your Department continue to use environmental zonings to downzone and sterilise developable coastal land?
Will your Department continue to claim the forfeiture of ownership of all lands eroded by coastal storms and /or inundated by the predicted rises in the level of the sea?
Will you and your Department continue to deny the right to full compensation to individuals affected by coastal erosion and sea level rise?
Is it the intention of your Department to apply the principles of no compensation to cost benefit analyses relating to the mitigation or defensive engineering options examined in CZMP’s and future CMP’s?
In considering your response to questions 3 and 4, I ask you to reflect on a statement recently made by a senior coordinator of the NSW Coastal Alliance.
“THIS NSW STATE GOVERNMENT IS SUPPORTING THE CONCEPT OF CATASTROPHIC CLIMATE CHANGE AND SEA LEVEL RISE CAUSED BY THE BURNING OF COAL AND OTHER FOSSIL FUELS, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME REAPING 1.5 BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR IN COAL ROYALTIES AND REFUSING TO SHARE A DOLLAR OF THAT REVENUE WITH THAT SECTION OF THE POPULATION BEARING THE BRUNT OF ITS DOUBLE STANDARDS”.
I ask for your personal response to these questions, and not a stock response from those public servants within your Department who have participated in the preparation of the Wharf Road Plan.
Eurobodalla Regional Coordinator
NSW Coastal Alliance.