LGSA welcomes new coastal protection laws

The Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW have conditionally welcomed changes to the Coastal Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Bill, tabled in Parliament last week. 

Local Government Association president, Genia McCaffery, said the Bill had been considerably amended after the Associations requested more time to consult with councils.

"The Coastal Panel now has three representatives from local government, and its Charter now gives it the potential to assist councils in addressing complex, contentious coastal planning issues,” Cr McCaffery said.

She added that the early draft of the Bill gave landowners “unfettered right to repeatedly protect their own properties, with no consideration of the longer tem effects or impacts on their neighbours”.

"Now, thanks to the Associations' submission, emergency works to protect properties are now subject to a process of approval through obtaining a council certificate and must be consistent with their council's Coastal Zone Management Plan,” Cr McCaffery said.

"Penalty provisions have also been significantly strengthened, as have council powers to issue notices to direct that illegal or inappropriate works are removed."

The Bill includes provisions for $495,000 fines for corporations and $247,000 fines for residents who take illegal measures to protect their homes from erosion.

Despite the changes, Cr McCaffery said the Associations were still concerned about “worrying components” of the legislation.

“We do still hold concerns about whether the permissible emergency works, such as sandbag walls, will work in real-life situations and offer any protection,” Cr McCaffery said.

The Associations have called for a stronger focus on long-term solutions to coastal erosion.

"The LGSA would like the State Government to commit to providing comprehensive information and data to assist councils all along the NSW Coast to confidently plan for the future, particularly in relation to sea level rise," Cr McCaffery said.

"The current emergency works provisions are reactive as landowners will, for the most part, wait until erosion is happening.

"Given that there are only 200 properties involved in the short to medium term, councils believe it would be better to work proactively with those landowners to develop longer term strategies, such as protective works or planned retreat."

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