The news you have when you’re not having news (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claytons): NSW environment minister Robyn Parker was not only running behind the news last Thursday when she ‘announced’ so-called reforms to coastal management legislation but she also gave Byron Shire residents little chance to find out more. Firstly, her media release suggested punters could find out more on the changes at the Environment NSW website but did not give clues as to where exactly on the site. It is here: www.environment.nsw.gov.au/coasts/stage1coastreforms.htm.
Secondly, she announced that a series of information evenings was under way. The session closest to us was in Ballina last Monday, so not much warning there.
Parker’s news is old news for concerned environmentalists and landowners – which are not mutually exclusive groups. As we noted at the time, ‘special minister of state’ Chris Hartcher announced the changes in early September.
Hartcher described the previous Labor government’s statewide sea-level rise planning benchmarks as ‘onerous’. Parker picks up the theme in her media release and throws in the cutting of red tape. As with the presidential debate in the USA, the ‘onerous’ impact of climate change has been put on the backburner, at least until the next election drags out a few more promises to be broken.
Obviously coastal landowners lobbied vigorously and successfully against coastal management plans which in Byron’s case had been decades in the making. While Parker’s release is vague as to what the changes are, the Environment NSW site gives better detail: ‘… works will be able to be placed at any time on public or private land – and owners will no longer need to wait until erosion is occurring or imminent; the current restrictions which limit private landowners placing these works on their land only once and only for 12 months will be lifted’, and ‘… the allowable time landowners can place works on public land will double, to two years’. Given the opportunity for liability risks (and civil suits) on the public beachfront, it’s lucky the legislation retains ‘current powers of authorised officer to remove temporary coastal protection works causing erosion to neighbouring land or presenting a public safety risk’.
After both this government and the previous one have stuffed around councils in their plan-making, Parker has generously given councils ‘an additional 12 months to complete their Coastal Zone Management Plan’. With a Stage 2 of coastal ‘reforms’ to be developed by the Coastal Ministerial Taskforce, don’t expect that to be the end of it.