Planner calls for calm on coastal management plan

With the Belongil Progress Association comparing Byron Council to the harsh regimes of Kosovo and Zimbabwe over its planned retreat policy, the council’s planning director, Ray Darney, has called for calm on the issue.

Mr Darney has urged all residents to wait until the draft Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) is out on exhibition so they can make an informed decision on its content.

He said a media release put out last week by the association in which it said it came as a ‘shock’ to hear that the enforced destruction of homes and property by governments in Kosovo and Zimbabwe was about to become ‘official policy’ of the council in relation to coastal erosion, might create concern in the community.

The council was hoping to get the go-ahead for the draft CZMP to go out on public exhibition in August, he said.

Planned retreat, or managed retreat as it was sometimes known, was being implemented and considered by councils and state authorities around the world.

Mr Darney said it was currently implemented in parts of New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the USA. He said the policy was not new and had been in place in Byron Shire since 1988.

The draft CZMP considered more than just property within the Byron Shire and recognised the long-term significance of natural coastal processes on the shire’s coastline and how it could be managed based on principles of social, environmental and economic sustainability, he said.

It took into account the natural environment, cultural heritage, landscapes and amenity, land use and social characteristics, economic characteristics, recreation and tourism and provided an emergency action plan.

Mr Darney urged the community to read the plan, make an informed decision and submit feedback. He said following the exhibition period, the submissions would be collated and presented back to the council for preparation for the final draft. 

 If there are any significant changes as a result of public consultation, the draft might then go back out on public display, he said.

The draft CZMP plan would then be submitted to the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment for review and approval.

Once approved by the minister, the council was required to prepare the final CZMP and publish it in the Government Gazette.

 When gazetted the CZMP became a statutory document under the provision of the Coastal Protection Act, 1979.

Mr Darney said management of the coastal zone was primarily a responsibility of local councils.

“Until the government adopts an alternative method to manage the coastline, then we are guided by the NSW Coastline Management Manual, relevant state and federal policy and legislation and any other advice given by relevant government departments,” he said.

“We are also required to review the CZMP every five to 10 years, or at shorter intervals should there be legislative changes or as new knowledge or data becomes available.”

Mr Darney said planned retreat had been in place in the shire since 1988 and people who had bought, built and redeveloped on the coastal strip in that time had been informed of the council’s development restrictions.

In a media release, the Belongil Progress Association said under the coastal management plan, owners would be required to demolish their homes at their own expense if the sea came to within 20 metres of their property.

Not only that, said an association spokesman, but they would be prevented from taking any action to protect their houses from the sea.
There would be no compulsory acquisition or any other form of compensation, he said.

The association said if the government approved the coastal management plan and houses were destroyed, people would be left standing in the street with no assets and a mortgage to pay, their lives ruined, savings destroyed, jobs lost, community housing assets destroyed and the council’s rate base eroded.

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