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Presentation to Council: Ian Hitchcock

EUROBODALLA COUNCIL MEETING – 23RD June 2020

WRITTEN PRESENTATION ON COUNCIL AGENDA ITEM PSR20/010 “COASTAL MANAGEMENT PLAN GRANT” BY IAN HITCHCOCK, EUROBODALLA REGIONAL COORDINATOR, NSW COASTAL ALLIANCE (NCA).

“Buried” on pages 92 -94 of the Council meeting agenda for 23 June 2020 is an innocuous report on the allocation of $250,000 for the completion of the Eurobodalla Coastal Management Plan.

The $250,000 being offered to complete the Eurobodalla CMP will be used to decide the future of Batemans Bay and its seaside suburbs. I would have thought that an issue of this level of importance was worthy of better billing than a page 92 mention on the agenda.

For the background of councillors, the following is an extract from a very recent NCA communication.

“You should be aware of the new NSW Coastal Management Act 2016, passed in April 2018. This is an Act that was hatched by the Greens, developed by Labor, and blindly implemented by the current Liberal/NP Coalition.

In essence, the Act:

1. Identifies a Coastal Zone (approximately one kilometre from tidal waters) with five land classifications within the Zone.

2. Local councils are required to prepare Coastal Management Programs (CMP’s) for all areas within the coastal zone.

3. Low lying areas like prime parts of Batemans Bay including the CBD, parts of Narooma, Dalmeny, Bermagui, Tathra, Merimbula and Eden will be classified “vulnerable areas” subject to coastal hazards. This classification is based on futuristic climate change and sea level rise projections as promoted by council planners and agenda driven NSW bureaucrats in environmental roles.

4. The CMP determines the future of these areas, and based on the negative approach displayed by NSW environmental bureaucrats, council planners, and the Coastal Council, engineered protection for vulnerable areas will be rejected in favour of “managed retreat”, whereby building restrictions will be ramped up, restrictive land use covenants applied, and the land confiscated by government if it is affected by rising seas, storms or coastal erosion.

These tactics in 4 above have already been applied in the Eurobodalla, and have the support of Planning Minister, Rob Stokes. The local member Andrew Constance, who appeared to support a policy of “coastal protection” recently “dumped on” the Surfside (Batemans Bay) residents. He promised $5 million two years ago to mitigate the serious erosion problem caused by past coastal works, undertaken by council and NSW government authorities. Now he has abrogated his responsibilities and passed the problem back to Council.

The average coastal resident will not realise the damage a “vulnerable area” classification will have on their property rights and property values until the CMP’s have been prepared and put into legislation by the Minister. Most will be unaware of the restrictions until they try to sell their homes or lodge a development application.”

Council has already spent $250,000 on the UNSW ECMP study. Over $500,000 has reportedly been spent on the RMS/GHD erosion study with around $100,000 for a peer review of that study. When Council spends Minister Hancock’s additional $250,000, the State Government will have spent over a million dollars on the Eurobodalla Coastal Management Program.

The State Government can spend another million trying to prove that it is not responsible for the irreparable damage to Batemans Bay’s natural coastal defences, but nothing will change. Local engineer Viv Sethi and the Surfside community groups have demonstrated that the environmental damage has been caused by the existing bridge works, dredging, and other engineering works on the southern shoreline. We don’t need any more expensive studies. We just need the funds and the engineering solution to fix it up.

The responsible Council officer informs councillors that the RMS/GHD erosion study, commissioned at the direction of the local member, has been reviewed by a Government Agency Taskforce, and the Task Force has recommended that this study be used, along with previous council studies, to develop practical and rigorous solutions.

Are Councillors aware that the RMS/GHD erosion report has been rejected out of hand by the community-based Project Reference Group (PRG) appointed by the local member/ NSW Minister for Transport and including highly qualified professional engineers. The damning PRG report is attached for your information. It has been referred to the Premier and regulatory authorities with a recommendation for an inquiry into its real purpose, and the contempt displayed for the affected community.

Apart from storms and coastal erosion, the ECMP must address the issue of futuristic sea level rise predictions that are being used to forecast the inundation of Lower Surfside and the demise of this area in the immediate future. The community wants a solution to this problem that gets the “sea level rise monkey” off its back. A Lake Macquarie style “raise and fill” program has been suggested, and the residents need councillors who will champion an innovative solution like this, on their behalf.

THIS IS A MAJOR ISSUE COUNCILLORS, AND ONE THAT REQUIRES YOUR SERIOUS ATTENTION. DON’T LET THE PUBLIC SERVANTS LEAD YOU DOWN A PATH OF “PLANNED” OR “MANAGED” RETREAT. OUR COASTAL COMMUNITIES NEED AND DESERVE BETTER, AND “PLANNED PROTECTION” IS THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE SOLUTION.

If you accept the additional $250,000 for finalisation of the ECMP please make it clear to Minister Hancock and the NSW Government that you oppose a retreat solution for low lying coastal areas in the Eurobodalla, unless there is no viable alternative. Step up to the plate and demand that any solution is based on the “protection” of our key towns and established low lying coastal residential areas.

Ian Hitchcock

Eurobodalla Regional Coordinator

NSW Coastal Alliance


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