Residents of the most erosion-prone beach in NSW are being funded to erect seawalls to protect their properties under a package that sets a climate change precedent for local government.
Northern Beaches Council has become the first council in NSW to assist residents in building coast guards to protect their waterfront properties from storms and erosion after convincing the state government to chip in on a $3.5 million assistance package.
The package means affected residents in 49 properties will be subsidised 20 per cent of the costs of construction – estimated at around $25,000 per property – with local and state government contributing 10 per cent of the costs, or $1.73 million, each.
The Northern Beaches local government area contains three beaches classified as coast erosion hotspots by the NSW government – Collaroy-Narrabeen, Bilgola and Basin Beach at Mona Vale. All are subject to coastal zone management plans.
Collaroy-Narrabeen is classified as the most at risk from coastal processes in NSW and the third most in Australia.
Many Collaroy residents, who will benefit from the funding deal, were severely affected by the 2016 storms which swallowed 50 metres of beach, destroyed a swimming pool and left homes teetering.
Council a ‘crash test dummy’
Mayor Michael Regan says it is a recognition that governments will increasingly have to respond to the challenges of climate change.
“We’ve been the crash test dummy to an extent,” he told Government News.
“These properties have been subject to coastal erosion as far back as records have been kept and I’m surprised that state governments have allowed local council to approve houses on the strip.
“It’s not that we didn’t know, but climate change has unfortunately had the effect that scientists said it would, that we’ll have more frequent, more severe storms.
“And we’ve seen that happen, we’ve had two east coast lows within the last three years.”
Hard slog convincing state government.
Cr Regan said council took the lead to push state government to come to the table.
“It’s taken us two years,” he said. “It was a hard slog. The difficulty in the bureaucracy in the state government was they just weren’t prepared. It’s the first of its kind and they didn’t know how to deal with it.”
However he said the package will also help protect Pittwater Road, one of the main arterial roads in and out of the Sydney’s northern beaches, and an important factor for the state government to take into account.
“It’s critical that we do our bit to protect that access,” he said.
Council will also soon begin construction of a 250 metre seawall in front of Collaroy car park.
More local governments could find themselves having to establish similar measures in coming years in response to climate coastal erosion, Cr Regan believes.
Ballina Council, on the NSW north coast, has also developed a coastal management plan to contain erosion and protect and preserve beach environments, and to guide council with respect to development in hazardous zones.
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