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NSW COASTAL ALLIANCE Calls On Councillors To Stand Up And Be Counted.

The Beagle Editor,

The reaction to Russell Schneider’s article “New Years Gauntlet Thrown Down for Councillors over Planned Retreat” is interesting to say the least. The usual group of Eurobodalla left wing climate change activists is heavily on the attack against a small group of Lower Surfside residents and their supporters, who want to see a sensible approach to climate change adaptation.

The NSW Coastal Alliance has both climate change believers and sceptics in its member groups. These members work together because climate change is not the issue here. The issue is the development of punitive climate change policies based on hypothetical predictions and unproven computer modelling.

Observant readers will note that bloggers Terry McGee and Damien Rogers can throw sea level rise figures at one another all day from supposedly reputable scientific sources and news outlets. The latest OEH (NSW Government) paper supports sea level rise of 2.7 metres by 2100, a figure that was supported by the CSIRO’s lead speaker at the recent NSW Coastal Conference. Prominent, and highly respected US climate scientist Judith Curry, claims that a sea level rise of this magnitude over the next 70 years is an impossibility.

This level of disagreement must tell the average punter that neither side of the sea level rise argument can provide the expected empirical evidence to support their case. Government decision makers need to be asking themselves how history will view their development of public policy based on conjecture, instead of hard evidence.

The Beagle’s pro-council bloggers would have readers believe that the ESC will be following Government legislation by supporting “planned retreat” as the preferred sea level rise adaptation option. As I have mentioned previously, “planned retreat” is not a mandatory requirement of the new NSW Coastal Management Act 2016. It is the preferred option of public servants within the NSW Office of the Environment and Heritage, supported by the NSW Coastal Council and a small group of sympathetic council planners. These government employees are implementing their own agendas without the support of elected representatives or regard for the affected communities.

Eurobodalla councillors will be asked to show their true colours on the “planned retreat” issue in a pending mayoral minute. Do they support draconian climate change adaptation planning that is based on “surrender and retreat” with no compensation and massive fines for anyone trying to protect their own property? Or, do they support a measured approach to climate change adaptation whereby sea level rise trigger points are established and engineering solutions developed to protect low lying areas, if and when, those trigger points are reached? The Mayor has been a strong supporter of the trigger point approach that calls for no action and no punitive regulation until hard facts emerge that support the premise of accelerated sea level rise.

The ball is in the councillors’ court. It won’t be long before Council planners present their adaptation solution for the 1,000 properties identified as vulnerable in the UNSW hazard study prepared and released as Stage 2 of the Eurobodalla Coastal Management Program. The affected residents, prospective developers in the Eurobodalla, and the other 4,000 to 5,000 residents in supposedly vulnerable estuarine locations, have a right to know the position of each of their elected representatives, before they are presented with a “fait accompli” that will be no doubt be accompanied by a warning that if councillors do not support the staff view, they will lose their legal protection under Section 733 of the Local Government Act.

I believe that the Section 733 threat is a load of “bunkum”. Provided councillors make their decisions in good faith they are protected, and as the local member has come out in opposition of planned retreat they will be in good company if they have to face the judge.

If Council staff are providing you with legal opinion that a “no retreat” stance will expose you to legal action, can I suggest that you refer that opinion to Andrew Constance so that he can run it past the NSW Attorney General.

The record of this council is less than impressive. It has failed to stop the economic rot in the shire, business confidence is at an all-time low, and the community has no confidence in its ability to turn things around. Councillors now have the opportunity of getting behind the local member and their Mayor by supporting the “no retreat” mayoral minute that is expected to be presented at the first Council meeting in February.

A unanimous vote against planned retreat could be the catalyst for a revival of development and business confidence in Batemans Bay and the shire as a whole. A vote for “planned retreat” could ring the death knell for this shire, and the current group of councillors will have to bear full responsibility for the economic repercussions.

Ian Hitchcock

Eurobodalla Regional Coordinator

NSW coastal Alliance


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