The state government says it plans to ensure that coastal property buyers are given clear and accurate advice by local councils on the impacts of coastal hazards such as erosion and flooding.
The move comes as local councils, including Byron and Tweed shires, struggle with whether to create rock walls to protect private property or maintain longstanding policies of ‘managed retreat’ in areas subject to erosion.
In 2012 Tweed Shire Council voted to build a revetment wall on Kingscliff beach to protect the surf club and caravan park, leading to resident accusations later that the wall was merely moving the problem.
Last year, Byron Shire Council voted to replace an ageing council sandbag wall at Belongil beach, adjacent to million-dollar homes, with a ‘temporary’ rock wall that critics say would cost more to remove than to put in place.
Today planning and infrastructure minister Brad Hazzard will put on public exhibition a draft planning circular recommending that councils distinguish between current and future hazards on Section 149 certificates.
Section 149 certificates alert purchasers to risks on the land, which can restrict development, such as whether building is subject to flood-related development controls.
‘We want to ensure property owners and buyers are given clear, accurate and up-to-date information on coastal hazards,’ Mr Hazzard said.
‘It is sensible to clearly separate current and future hazards.
‘Councils need to make that decision based on sufficiently accurate and complete information that is as reliable as possible and is not broad brush, but which takes into account relevant information about local conditions.
‘What this planning circular delivers is certainty – certainty and consistency for councils, property owners and property buyers.’
The new planning circular follows advice to the NSW government from the NSW chief scientist and engineer, who in turn took advice from leading experts in sea-level rise, CSIRO’s Dr John Church and Dr John Hunter from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre.
The Coastal Expert Panel has also provided advice to the NSW government to help refine its approach.
Mr Hazzard said the government had adopted the chief scientist’s recommendation that more regionally specific calculations be carried out, which took into account specific sea level, topography, flood risk and other conditions along the NSW coast.
‘The chief scientist rightly pointed out that NSW has the expertise – government, academia and research institutions and the private sector that allows global models to be interpreted and adapted to build much more precise local models specific to various NSW coastal locations.
‘Following the chief scientist’s review, the NSW government is also considering the best and most suitable way to provide technical support for local councils in interpreting and translating new scientific findings, and assist them in developing strategies, infrastructure planning, and appropriate risk management related to sea-level rise and its impacts.’
Local government minister and Ballina MP Don Page said councils wanted simpler and clearer information on current and future coastal hazards in the face of complex and inconsistent scientific data.
‘For landowners there has been uncertainty along the coast, with different councils applying different approaches to the way they determined notations on Section 149 certificates.
‘The proposed circular delivers clarity to all coastal councils by making a clear distinction between current and future exposure to coastal hazards, which could be very different in nature and require different management controls.
‘The NSW government is returning power to local communities who have been affected by Labor’s heavy-handed coastal policy.
‘The government has already made it easier for landowners to place large sandbags on beaches as temporary coastal protection works during storms.’
Minister for the environment Robyn Parker said the Coastal Expert Panel is ‘working with the NSW government on practical advice to assist councils in their assessments’.
‘Managing erosion and other coastal hazards is a complex and challenging task – we want NSW to have the best plans, legislation and other arrangements in place to manage our valuable coastal areas,’ Minister Parker said.
The draft planning circular is on public exhibition and submissions can be made until 3 March 2014. www.planning.nsw.gov.au/proposals