COASTAL MANAGEMENT CRISIS
When the state government announced in May last year “the biggest funding boost to coastal management since the 1970s”, many believed this would take pressure off councils trying to address the issues of coastal erosion, rising sea levels and harbour land use planning all within a tight budget.
At the time, super storms had ripped through areas of the North Shore causing havoc, heartache and millions of dollars in damage. It seemed to be the ugly face of climate change and a catastrophe for the local community.
This additional government funding promised 583.6 million from the 2016 NSW budget towards the “management of the NSW coastline, strategic coastal land-use planning and coastal management reforms”.
But over 12 months later, the bulk of the funding is yet to be allocated, despite the legislation passing through the Parliament of NSW late last year.
The government says it is still working on finalising a vital planning regime for councils who will also need to submit a Coastal Zone Management Plan to the government for approval before any funds are set aside for them.
Willoughby councillor Lynne Saville says her organisation, Sydney Coastal Councils, has been at the forefront of lobbying for action and additional funding.
“We are pleased the Coastal Management Act has been passed - but we are still waiting for specific plans to be finalised before we can apply for protect funding,” she says.
“That's where the confusion lies. Councils don't know what local assets need to be rebuilt or protected and they don't want to go it alone until they hear about the guidelines."
She says inner harbour councils like Mosman and North Sydney have different needs to the Northern Beaches and may be considered lower risk by the government, and therefore not entitled to as much funding.
“But the community does expect high public and tourist assets to be protected like local beach fronts, The Spit and areas around Neutral Bay and Kirribilli,” she says.
Mosman Council's director of the Department of Planning and Environment, Craig Covich, tells North Shore Living his council is also waiting for this planning and environment modelling from the government.
“We certainly need more funds before we can plan a holistic approach to managing our coastline," he says.
“There will be lots of work for councils in tendering and design work for areas, such as the Balmoral Esplanade. It could be a long time before any shovels are on the ground."
Mosman councillor Carolyn Corrigan has confirmed The Spit erosion and degradation is now a "very serious issue".
"Whatever plans are put into place, the government must not bypass the inner harbour councils," she states.
A NSW government spokesperson told North Shore Living the Coastal Management State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) was still in the pipeline. She says some initial money is being made available on demand.
Ms Saville maintains that, because of climate change, none of our foreshore areas will be immune to future storm damage.
"This is extremely critical, but not much is being done, so the SEPP plans are vital. We need the teeth in the legislation," she says.
A resident’s anger
Neutral Bay resident Max Weston says he's "upset and annoyed" a new North Sydney Council coastal flood study has labelled his home in Hayes Street as being in a high-risk flood prone area. As the homeowner, this results in dire consequences for the North Shore local.
"The property would have a lower resale value and, with any renovation, owners would need to allow for special flood-planning modifications. Also, rates and insurance policy premiums could Increase by up to at least 100 per cent," he explains.
In retaliation, Mr Weston formed the North Sydney Flood Action Resident's Committee to lobby the council and state government about these negative impacts.
He says he then attended a number of council public meetings, where ''we were basically being told, 'This is what is happening and you don't need to know about it'," he reveals.
Mr Weston says the flood report, which was passed unanimously by the council in February, identifies nearly 2000 properties in the local government area that are allegedly “flood prone".
“The engineers have ignored structures like fencing, walls and barriers when assessing these flood risks and also may have identified flood issues when they are actually storm water drainage issues," he states.
"Unless something constructive is done, this is going to cause a lot of community angst, because our research shows the study contains many questionable assumptions," Mr Weston concedes.