Property owners throughout Eurobodalla could face unexpected rate hikes if Eurobodalla Shire Council and the State Government refuse to protect the foreshores from possible sea level rise.
Eurobodalla Coast Alliance President Russell Schneider AM has urged Council to see foreshore protection as an investment which not only protects ratepayer owned infrastructure such as roads, water and sewage systems, but also means ratepayers far from the coast will not have to pay higher rates if coastal properties are forcibly abandoned as a result of Council policies.
“Claims that the investment only benefits property owners on the coastal fringe are totally wrong,” he said. “The fact is these properties pay very substantial rates, and there are vital assets which ratepayers have paid for that need to be protected. Protection of the coastline benefits everyone, whether they live on the coast itself or further inland. "If coastal properties are abandoned as some would wish, other ratepayers will have to pay more or be denied water, sewerage and other infrastructure. Any benefit to property owners on the coast is coincidental. Ultimately the Council/Government investment will yield higher rate returns.
“If Council or the State Government aren’t prepared to protect these properties one can only conclude there is an agenda to steal coastal property and allow the authorities to use it for their own pet projects”
Mr Schneider said property owners on the north shore were not the only ones likely to be affected by dubious mapping of “vulnerable” areas. "Catalina, Hanging Rock, and the CBD were all included in areas which a University of NSW report claims are exposed to inundation in the future. Engineers have described the report as dubious and needing revision based on better evidence." Eurobodalla Coast Alliance President Russell Schneider AM
Mr Schneider made the warning when replying to an invitation from Council to discuss its forthcoming “consultation” sessions on coastal management plans. He said:
“I am very happy to discuss the community engagement program at a mutually convenient time.
I would, however, stress that I, and ECA, believe any such program should be based on providing residents and ratepayers with an understanding of the various issues involved, including the impact Council decisions may have on the future use and value of their properties rather than promoting a particular management favoured agenda or cherry picking residents’ views.
"They should also be fully informed of the validity of reports provided to Council which may form the basis of its decisions, and the extent to which those reports can be trusted. They should be given an opportunity to consider the Sethi report on Surfside and consider it in the context of all other low lying land within the Shire including the areas of and around Surfside, Long and Maloney’s beach, Catalina and Hanging Rock and a number of other locations including the Batemans Bay CBD.
"They should also consider it in the context of Council’s purchase of the Bowling Club which must be seen as equally “vulnerable”. They should be made aware of Council’s plan to build a rockwall at Wharf Road once Council gains control of that land when the new bridge is built.
"This would include a full outline of the inadequacies of the UNSW report which formed the basis of Stage 2 evaluations of which areas of Eurobodalla are at risk, unless Council management is itself prepared to accept the report needs to be withdrawn and resubmitted based on proper analysis. The community is also entitled to know what advice Council management gave the consultants in relation to what it expected or required the report to yield. We await that information.
Mr Schneider was very clear in his next point "As you know, experienced engineers have serious and justifiable concerns about the quality of the consultant’s advice. Decisions which may have major impact on individuals and communities need to be based on much more substantive studies than those Council has so far commissioned."
"I and ECA are also concerned at suggestions that the community should comment on “what it wishes its beaches to look like”. This can only be construed as an attempt to distract affected residents or visitors from the real issue, which is the impact Council policies relating to management of sea level rise, erosion and flooding, may have on them. It appears either as “gilding the lily” or, in the words of one Councillor in the past “don’t frighten the horde.”
"The “horde” are entitled to know what to expect."
"I again request that Council management provide clear and easily understandable maps showing which areas are considered vulnerable to the above “threats”, and the timeframe in which these may occur. This is the only way residents can reasonably understand what they may expect. These maps should be made available in easily understood format (unlike those currently available) to the community.
"Council insistence that people seeking development approvals must place covenants on their land titles committing future owners to pay for removal of their properties if a one in 100 year event occurs are totally unacceptable and should be revoked."
"Council also needs to explain the impact of its policies on those ratepayers whose properties may not be directly affected by the proclaimed “vulnerabilities” but who will be required to make up any shortfall in rateable income as the value of “vulnerable” areas declines. This is a problem that goes far beyond the residents of coastal areas but in fact impacts throughout the Shire. People far from the coastline will face unnecessary increases in their rate burden if “vulnerable” areas are forcibly abandoned.. Once again I ask Council to “come clean” on this issue."
In conclusion Mr Schneider added "I do not believe it is acceptable for Council to claim it is simply carrying out the wishes of State agencies. Unless it supports those wishes it should be standing up for residents and ratepayers, not yielding to pressure from Sydney based public servants pursuing their own agenda."
"Protecting the foreshores should be seen as an investment, not a cost. It is an investment which goes far beyond those directly affected because it will ensure rates continue to be paid by residents in “threatened areas” rather than shifting the burden to other ratepayers if foreshore properties are taken over by the Council under what may well be false pretences. "Protecting foreshores does not just protect individual property owners: it also protects valuable ratepayer owned assets including roads, sewage and water supply and other assets, and adds to the overall sustainability of the Shire."
Mr Schneider has written to Eurobodalla Mayor Liz Innes saying "I am more than happy to discuss this further with you in the hope we can come to a sensible, reasonable, and honest outline of the situation to everyone in the Shire, many of whom have no idea of the potential impact on their lives. I await your office suggesting a time. In the meantime ECA will continue to organise public meetings to ensure residents are fully informed and our invitation for council management to participate remains.”