At a community meeting on Monday 19th December 2018, the NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Andrew Constance, gave the residents of Lower Surfside, an unequivocal assurance that there will be NO “PLANNED RETREAT” policies applied to their properties. Russell Schneider AM, President of the Eurobodalla Coast Alliance (A member group of the NSW Coastal Alliance) attended the meeting and reported that, as the NSW State Governement has done in Collaroy and Lake Macquarie, it will fund mitigation/adaptation plans to ensure that property values are maintained and residents can enjoy the use of their properties without the fear of government restrictions or prohibitive insurance premiums. “We need to identify coastal hot spots and vulnerable areas, but I am not prepared to say let’s have planned retreat and to hell with the consequences. There are 60,00 properties across the state that could be affected” Mr Constance told the meeting.
Reporting on the outcomes of the meeting Mr Schneider said "Mr Constance’s commitment was greeted with loud applause from the large group of Surfside residents who attended the meeting."
"Eurobodalla Mayor, Clr Liz Innes expressed her personal opposition to planned retreat as a solution to rising sea levels, but pointed out that she is one vote in a council of nine members. She cannot speak for other councillors." It is understood that Cr Innes told the meeting that at present, anyone applying for a development application on a property identified as high-risk was required to show how they could avoid the threat of inundation, mitigate the threat, or choose to negotiate a retreat. "Mr Constance suggested she put forward a mayoral minute to gauge the level of support she has from other councillors. Mayor Innes was sympathetic towards the plight of residents of Lower Surfside and she reiterated her long held view that trigger points must be established so that the community knows when climate change action is needed." reported Mr Schneider who added:
"Minister Constance emphasised the need for the studies currently being conducted by engineering consultants GHD to be completed before a scope of works is prepared, and solutions developed to protect Lower Surfside and other vulnerable areas in the Batemans Bay area." “We do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past”. “We want the best engineered solution here to protect the community”. “We have another $250,000 to find the best solution.” “We currently have $400,000 available towards an engineering solution.” Minister Constance at the Surfside meeting
It is reported that the Minister apologised for the mixed messages that came out of last Thursday’s RMS/GHD meeting and will resolve those issues with RMS staff.
Mr Schneider said "The Minister fully supported a suggestion that the Surfside community groups should form an adaptation planning committee and take control of their own destiny in relation to climate change planning and adaptation. The Mayor indicated that Council is examining the engagement of coastal consultants Twyfords to develop a Batemans Bay adaptation plan similar to the one developed for areas of Lake Macquarie, near Newcastle. She was also supportive of the community taking the lead in their own climate change adaptation planning, and wants to work with the ECA, NCA and the various Surfside Groups to get things moving."
In summing up, the Minister told the meeting “First the study in relation to bridge by GHD. There are a lot of concerns and a lack of respect to be fixed. The stage one study needs to cover the effects of the pylons on the new bridge and the removal of the old pylons, because we cannot have unexpected consequences”. He repeated earlier advice that he has asked the Minister for the Environment to work out the resources needed to protect properties at Surfside, “possibly a sea wall, but we need to find the best solution” adding that he intends to protect the property rights of Surfside residents and the value of their properties. "Council should engage the Lake Macquarie consultants to work with the community to find the best sea level rise adaptation plan." Minister Constance
The Minister has agreed to meet with the community again in two months and to follow up with GHD on the historical erosion review which would be a desk top study, and should only take a few weeks to complete. Meanwhile he wanted residents to provide him with details of insurance policy increases that he can follow up with the NRMA or any other companies that have significantly increased premiums.
Eurobodalla Coast Alliance President Russell Schneider AM welcomed Mr Constance’s remarks, adding that he was sure the Surfside community would be delighted that their problems were being taken seriously.