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August 18, 2022

Management of Byron’s fragile coastline impeded by NSW government: report

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Insufficient funding and guidance from the State government is inhibiting Byron Council’s attempt to effectively manage its famous but fragile coastline, a Council report has revealed.

The report, which came before the Coastal and ICOLL Advisory Committee last week, was an update on the Council’s preparation of Coastal Management Programs (CMPs).

Statutorily required and partially funded by the State government, these programs set out the long-term plan to balance the environmental, cultural and economic needs of the coastal zone and adapt to emerging issues such as population growth and climate change.

‘For a small coastal council we have a large coastline with high coastal risks to manage,’ the authors of the report said.

‘A CMP is necessary to effectively assess and prioritise risks and manage current and emerging issues… and to allow access to the Coast and Estuary grant funding for implementation of key actions.’

However, the authors of the staff report said that the attempt to do this had been cruelled by a lack of support from the State government itself, in particular the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE).

Staff said there was a need for more guidance, including information on how to include broader catchment issues and effectively integrate ‘catchment, coast and marine policy and governance’.

There was also insufficient ongoing funding for coastal management, and for proper engagement and collaboration with the traditional custodians of the land, the Arakwal People of the Bundjalung Nation.

There was also a lack of understanding among different government agencies of their role in the process, something that was exacerbated by insufficient staff resources being allocated to the task.

As a consequence of these and other issues, Council has only progressed through one stage of the five-stage process involved in preparing the Coastal Management Programs.

And it appears they are not alone.

‘Byron Shire Council is one of 52 councils preparing CMPs for their coastal zones,’ the authors of the report stated.

‘In total, there are 50-plus CMPs currently being prepared across the NSW coastline with only three certified to date.’

This, they said, was part of a longer-term challenge faced by the Council in its attempts to effectively care for the Shire’s coastline.

‘Despite Council’s coastal hazard management planning approach, no long-term coastal management plan has been approved or certified by the minister, notwithstanding several attempts for the Shire including four attempts to be implemented by Council for the Byron Bay Embayment following the NSW government’s designation of Belongil Beach as a coastal erosion hotspot.’

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