Mayor's coast works costs fears

Planned new coastal legislation has the potential to transfer the cost and liability of coastal protection works on to all ratepayers, according to Byron Mayor, Cr Jan Barham.

Cr Barham said under the council’s present Local Environmental Plan (LEP), coastal landowners were permitted to submit development applications for the construction of hard structures such as rock walls.

She said the council had been attempting to move towards a holistic shirewide approach so these matters did not have to keep being considered on a case-by-case basis.

The proposed NSW Coastal Protection Legislation Amendment Bill retained the case-by-case regime without a long-term strategic plan, she said.


 It continued to expose councils across the state to the expense of retaining external expertise for development assessment and appeal processes.

Cr Barham said the proposed draft legislation placed the risk and liability from landowner works to protect private property back on to the council and the community and would encourage ongoing litigation.

She said it also had the potential to put the beach environments and public safety at risk.

“There will be a greater potential for disputes over scope of works, costs and potential ongoing impacts onto neighbouring properties,” she said.

“There could also be disputes between neighbours now and in the future.

“Council has spent significant funds over the past decade on coastal studies to determine the risks associated with the Byron Shire coastline and the best way forward.”

Cr Barham said the legislation, if adopted, might result in council funds being diverted to restoring beachfront landowner’s property or restoring public access to beaches after landowners had carried out exempt works.

She said while the State Government was proposing councils would have the ability to make an annual levy charge on coastal landowners, how was any council meant to project forward a ‘reasonable cost’ budget to allow for unpredictable weather events and storm damage?

“Further, if taken up by councils, the charge would only cover future works and would not cover costs of maintenance of works approved under development consents issued to date,” she said.

“If the levy funds are not enough to repair the storm damage, where do the funds come from?”

Cr Barham said this scenario had the potential to place a significant financial burden on all ratepayers as shire services could be reduced to account for repair of coastal protection works for beachfront properties.

She also expressed her surprise and disappointment that councils and communities had only been given until April 12 to provide a submission.

Council representatives would be attending a State Government briefing session tomorrow in Ballina, she said.

Cr Barham said that since 1988, the council had had in place a strategy of ‘planned retreat’ which placed restrictions on new development consents and additions to existing structures within the shire.

She said planned retreat was suggested as a possible management strategy in 1978 by the NSW State Government Public Works Department (PWD) in the Byron to Hastings Point Erosion Study.

The erosion study proposed a number of management strategies for dealing with coastal erosion; one of which was referred to as ‘A Policy of Relocation’, she said.

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