Published on: October 2021
Coastal Management Amendment Bill 2021
Second Reading Debate
Debate resumed from 13 2021.
Mr DAVID MEHAN (The Entrance) (12:39:15):
I lead for the Opposition on the Coastal Management Amendment Bill 2021. The Opposition does not oppose the bill. However, I will comment on the existing coastal management legislative framework. The object of the bill is to defer the date on which certain savings provisions cease to have effect from 1 December 2021 to 1 December 2023. The savings provisions provide that a coastal zone management plan in force under the Coastal Protection Act 1979 will continue to have effect until replaced by a coastal management program prepared and adopted under the Coastal Management Act 2016, and that certain coastal zone management plans prepared before the repeal of the former Act and certified after the repeal are taken to be coastal management programs prepared and adopted under the Coastal Management Act 2016.
Under the provisions of the current Act, existing coastal zone management plans will cease to have effect on 31 December 2021. Due to the current circumstances in this State, the majority of councils have not been able to update their coastal zone management plans to coastal management programs. Given that fact, it is appropriate that the Government's response is to give councils more time. That is well and good, but there has also been a lack of support from this Government for councils to implement their coastal management programs. It started off well in 2016 when the member for Pittwater and then planning Minister said in this House that the Coastal Management Bill 2016, which we are amending today, was "one of the most innovative pieces of coastal planning legislation in the world". My goodness! I am sure that excited a bunch of people along the coast of New South Wales. Five years down the track, most of those councils have not been able to upgrade their existing coastal zone management plans to coastal management programs, which shows the lack of support from this Government for councils up and down the coast of New South Wales to protect coastal zones.
Members will remember the 2020 storms that hit the New South Wales coast that caused severe coastal erosion along the Manly shoreline. Tremendous erosion also occurred at The Entrance North on the Central Coast in my electorate. The erosion came very close to homes along Hutton Road, causing considerable distress to my constituents who, for better or worse, were granted approval to build houses on the barrier dune that separates the ocean from Tuggerah Lake. Having been granted that approval, they are under the not unreasonable impression that the State will do all it can to protect them.
The member for Terrigal had severe coastal erosion in his electorate at Wamberal, which caused the homes to be undermined. We saw dramatic images of the exposed foundations of those homes, which left them teetering on the brink of collapse and causing a significant rescue and protection operation that was overseen by the emergency operations commander on the Central Coast. That program was undertaken with a high degree of professionalism, and it was very effective.
Before I get onto the downside of the protection works, it was done professionally and quickly. It certainly protected the residents along the North Entrance from further erosion and did the same thing along the Wamberal shoreline. The erosion protection works fundamentally consisted of a rock wall constructed at the toe of the erosion scarp along the beach. It effectively prevented further erosion taking place, protecting those homes. It does not look pretty, at the end of the day. I appreciate and acknowledge the concerns of my constituents and those of the member for Terrigal. The residents who live in those locations have an expectation that more will be done to effectively give back the beach that has been lost and to do more works as necessary.
I commend Central Coast Council for doing all they could, with the powers they have, to design some additional works at North Entrance to address the erosion that is currently occurring at the southern end of the erosion protection works constructed last year. Storm waves continue to lap around the edges of those erosion protection works and continue to erode the barrier dune, thus coming closer to houses at the end of Hansens Road and causing further distress to my constituents. The council have designed some additional protection works, which they have advised me they will be putting into place within the next month. That is good news, but there is much more to be done.
The council were fundamentally ordered to do those protection works by the local emergency operations controller, which involved the expenditure of moneys. We can point the finger at the Government for not properly supporting the councils to implement the programs and plans they are required to put in place to protect our coastal environment. The works that were done on the Central Coast cost a total of $2,886,640 at two locations, Wamberal and North Entrance. People who live on the coast would be familiar with their history: Wamberal used to be in the old Gosford local government area; North Entrance used to be in the old Wyong local government area. They are now under one council, for better or for worse—but that is a whole other speech.
I am advised by the Minister that the old coastal zone management plan in place for Wamberal had been certified. Even though people who live in North Entrance are required to comply with the coastal zone management plan when they build a home, I am advised by the Minister that the plan had never been properly certified to allow council to apply for funding under the Coastal and Estuary Grant Program to undertake any works whatsoever. If someone wants to build a house in the coastal zone in North Entrance, in the old Wyong local government area, they have to follow council's coastal zone management plan.
~break That is because it was never certified properly, so council is not eligible for any funding under the State Government's grant programs to do works. That meant the State Government funded half the works at Wamberal but zero works at The Entrance North, leaving council out of pocket for works that it had no say over at the end of the day. The local emergency operations controller is a State Government appointed functionary, who fulfils a statutory obligation under a separate Act of Parliament to direct protective works in response to emergencies in the area. That is the circumstance our local council found itself in, and it is not alone.
The shadow Minister for Local Government has revealed before that of the $72 million funding pool under the Coastal and Estuary Grants Program between 2016-21, only $38 million was expended. Councils up and down the coast made dozens of applications for funding, but a quarter of those were rejected, including a bunch of them made by Central Coast Council, for one reason or another. It is well and good to set up legislation and say it is the most innovative piece of coastal planning legislation in the world, but the Government has to fund it. As the superior level of government to local government authorities, which the Government expects to implement its legislation, the Government should provide support and funding to protect the coastal zone. The Government has not done that.
Whilst Labor is not opposed to the extension of time to allow councils to get their act together, they need a bit of support from the Government to do that. The coastal zone is a tricky planning environment. A whole bunch of people like to live on the coast, and a whole bunch of people with deep pockets have been allowed to build their houses on the coast. The community needs planning certainty, support and funding from the State Government to do the work the community expects to protect the coastal environment and to give certainty to people who live within that coastal environment as well.
It is all well and good for the Government to pass fine legislation and make fine speeches, but the proof is in the pudding. The eating of this pudding has not been possible because the State Government has not provided the funding and support needed to do the grand things it has said is possible under the legislation. I encourage the Minister—who is not here—and the Government to do more to support coastal councils. It has been five years under this fantastic piece of legislation, and most councils have still not upgraded their plans. The Government is responsible for that. Most councils have applied for funding, and a whole bunch were knocked back. The Government is responsible for making sure that councils get their act together to provide the protection and certainty the coastal zone needs, both now and for future generations. Labor supports—does not oppose the bill. But we underline with a big red pen, because we are Labor, that the Government has failed to support its own legislation. We will talk more about that between now and March 2023.
Ms FELICITY WILSON (North Shore) (12:53:51):
I am pleased to speak in support of the Coastal Management Amendment Bill 2021. What we have heard so far from the Opposition is a bit disappointing. It is a bill they say they support, as the member for The Entrance espoused—
Mr David Mehan:
We are not opposed.
Ms FELICITY WILSON:Hansard
We can check , but the member for The Entrance literally just said Labor supports the bill. It was very clear that was the terminology used by the member for The Entrance. What is most disappointing about his contribution is the way he has chosen to attack councils. On the one hand, he tells us that councils need support, they need funding, they need us as a government to get on board and back them. Then on the other hand he lists a litany of areas where he says councils have failed. I am not here to stick the boot into councils today and neither is the Minister. We want to work to protect and preserve our coastlines and make sure that people across our community have safe, accessible, healthy waterways and coasts, and protected zones in that area.
The member for The Entrance may choose to say that Labor supports the bill, but then he used his speech to attack a piece of legislation that is giving everything it can to our local councils and our local communities to ensure coastal management protection. In particular, the transition between the coastal zones management plans to the coastal management programs has had over $8 million in funding from this Government alone. So, whatever we have heard from those opposite today, we can agree with one thing—they should support the legislation, and we are grateful. But the warm lettuce attacks that they say are coming or that have been thrown this morning are very weak. I will go through them and tell members why.
As we have already heard from the Minister, the bill will make important amendments to the Coastal Management Act 2016 that will ensure that our councils have sufficient time to complete their transition to the new coastal management framework. That is time that this Government is giving to councils. The new framework was a reform of this Government resulting from extensive consultation and collaboration between the State Government and local councils along the coast as well as coastal experts and coastal communities.
The Government recognises the importance and social value of our State's littoral economy and lifestyle. We are committed to supporting resilient communities living on our coast, now and into the future. The Government designed the new coastal management framework to create a system that is simpler and more effective. It replaces and improves what was an outdated and complex web of laws that previously governed coastal management. Moreover, these reforms have created a more strategic framework to enable us to resolve a number of issues that arose in historical decisions and to anticipate and prepare for future challenges and decisions in a planned, coordinated and strategic way.
Unlike the member for The Entrance, I think that our local councils are the custodians of our coast, in partnership with the communities that they represent. They are central to the coastal management framework that we have in place. This Government is committed to ensuring better management of our coastal environments for the wellbeing and benefit of all people of New South Wales. The reforms that the Government introduced in 2016 were comprehensive and had a significant scale. They necessitated provisions to enable this timely transition. That is why the Coastal Management Act 2016 was designed—in order to provide the time for councils to transition from coastal zone management plans under the former arrangements to the new coastal management programs under the new framework.
Councils have faced unprecedented challenges in recent times. I should not have to remind people in this place about this once‑in‑100‑year pandemic and the once-in-a-generation or once‑in‑50‑year natural disasters that have peppered our coastlines with droughts, with floods and with bushfires. Those events have significantly impacted the ability of many councils to complete this transition. Many coastal councils have made considerable progress in spite of the challenges. This amending bill provides a welcome and necessary extension in completing the transition process. In my own community, Mosman Municipal Council and North Sydney Council have been contributing partners to the development of the coastal management program for the Greater Sydney Harbour.
Many people probably do not realise that the catchments for Sydney Harbour are not just in my own backyard but extend broadly across Sydney. They can go all the way to Bankstown, for instance. Any pesticides or particulate matter on our roads or in our soils actually goes through our waterways to Sydney Harbour, the jewel of Sydney. We all need to work together to preserve and protect it, but that is why it is so complex. So many players are involved in ensuring preservation and protection, so we need to give them the capacity and the opportunity to work together to deliver the outcomes.
The Greater Sydney Harbour Coastal Management Program is a promising example of progress. For the first time, over 20 local councils and State agencies are working together to prepare a program to manage what is a complex coastal and estuarine environment, with many interested stakeholders. This is crucial, forward‑thinking planning, which will ensure the best outcome for our iconic Sydney Harbour. However, it is going to take considerable time to prepare a program of this nature. The program is currently at the second stage of the five‑stage coastal management program development and implementation framework. I am pleased to note that the New South Wales Government has provided its support with a planning grant of about $250,000 to assist the group in improving and strengthening the Sydney Harbour coastal environment.
In other local government areas around the harbour, circumstances largely beyond the control of councils have led those councils to a position where they are now unlikely to be ready to replace their existing coastal zone management plans with a certified costal management program by 31 December 2021. The implications of that present significant risks to many of our councils. For example, some councils will be limited in their ability to seek grant funding or to implement the actions and works in their existing certified coastal zone management plans—something the member for The Entrance said would be a terrible shame to see happen—and their pathways for planning assessments of certain coastal protection and emergency works under the Environment Planning and Assessment Act 1979 may also be impacted. So it is obvious why we need the proposed legislation.
While the work to develop the Greater Sydney Harbour Coastal Management Program progresses, the amendment will allow the continued implementation of plans in neighbouring electorates, such as the Lane Cove River Coastal Zone Management Plan. This plan includes objectives and actions to improve water quality within the Lane Cove River and by extension Sydney Harbour as well as strategies to plan for and adapt to the impacts of climate change in the estuary. That also applies to the Parramatta River Coastal Zone Management Plan, which was prepared by eight councils along the Parramatta River foreshore. COVID showed us the importance to communities of access to open space, foreshores and high‑quality healthy estuarial environments. Wouldn't it be great to see more recreation, more people swim and fish and play along Parramatta River? The Parramatta River Coastal Zone Management Plan provides for that with coordinated planning and management of the estuary. It is vital that this work continues until such time that the Greater Sydney Harbour Coastal Management Program is ready for certification implementation.
These plans recognise and value the previous and ongoing contributions from stakeholders, including the Parramatta River Catchment Group and the Sydney Coastal Councils Group, through the continued implementation of coastal zone management plans while coastal management programs remain under development through the new coastal management framework. By continuing these plans and ensuring their eligibility to apply for funding support, we can continue the good work of these communities and stakeholder groups and help manage the physical and environmental assets of our coastal zones.
As I have previously mentioned, councils are the local managers of our coastal environments, but they are also at the heart of local responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, to natural disasters such as bushfires, coastal erosions and floods. They play an important role in contributing local perspectives to our broader statewide strategic issues. For those reasons, it is important that we continue to support councils through this important transitional process by supporting the bill. The bill recognises that a two-year extension of the transition time frame under the Act is not a failing of the participants through the original policy intent—particularly councils, as the member for The Entrance inferred—but rather a practical and pragmatic response to unprecedented events and ensures that improvements in coastal management arrangements that were implemented by this Government in 2016 are properly and fully delivered with the support of councils along the New South Wales coast.
Providing our councils with additional time to transition to the new framework will not only encourage and support coastal councils to maintain the good progress to date, it will also ensure those councils will continue to have access to critical sources of grant funding that can help them better manage the coast for the benefit of the local community. The bill recognises and responds to the enormous pressure that our local councils have faced during recent times and who continue to maintain the local economy and our natural environment alongside the challenges of the pandemic and natural disasters. The bill also ensures that the benefits of this Government's nation‑leading environmental reforms are being realised for the benefit of the people of New South Wales. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr DAVID HARRIS (Wyong) (13:03:33):Pasha Bulker
I contribute to debate on the Coastal Management Amendment Bill 2021 and endorse the words spoken by the member for The Entrance. The member was seriously misrepresented by the member for North Shore. The Opposition supports local councils having the resources they need to get the job done. To provide a bit of history, I was first elected to Parliament in 2007, just before the storm disaster. At that time, in my community at a place called Cabbage Tree Harbour a number of houses—I think it was five or six—were in danger of falling into the ocean. Perhaps the member for North Shore does not have to put up with that all the time. In the electorates of Terrigal and The Entrance and my own electorate of Wyong, every time there is an east coast low people's houses are at risk of tumbling into the ocean. For us this is not a theoretical problem about recreation, swimming and nice things. It is about actually protecting people's property and ensuring we are able to maintain a proper coastal environment. We are acutely aware of all the issues contained here.
Coastal Zone Management Plan for the Wyong Coastline
Labor supports the extension of the time limit for these new plans to be completed. I note the coastal zone management plan for Gosford on the Central Coast had been approved, but it is being reviewed again and will need that extra time. In my part of the world, the Wyong plan has for some reason never been approved. It was first written in 2011, so this is not a new thing for us in the northern part of the Central Coast. I have in my hand a copy of the . It was written by consultants in 2011. They used very similar language and so on to the Gosford plan but, for reasons I will go into, this plan has been submitted four times for certification and that certification has not happened. On 3 February 2021 the then administrator, Mr Dick Persson, announced he would write to the Premier and seek her assistance to obtain more funding. In his contribution the member for The Entrance alluded to the fact that the works at Wamberal were able to be funded but the works at The Entrance North were not eligible, as the plan had not been certified. Mr Persson stated:
It's important to note, that while the Coastal Zone Management Plan that covers The Entrance North was never certified, it was in fact submitted to the NSW Government for certification four times between 2011 and 2018.
It was not that council had not done the work; it was that, for some reason, it could not get approval. I am thinking that each time it came back council did the work it was asked to do and resubmitted the plan, only for it not to be approved. We got to the storm event in 2021 and it still had not been approved. When council went to apply for the funding to assist it with that money, it was told it was not eligible. It is a serious concern that the original plan still has not been approved, let alone worrying about the new iteration of the plan under the new name. I, for one, would like to know why.
Between my electorate and that of the member for The Entrance we have got five hot-spot precincts. The member for The Entrance has the abatements of Blue Bay, Toowoon Bay and The Entrance North Beach in his electorate. In my electorate there are the abatements of Hargraves Beach and Cabbage Tree Harbour. These are things we have known about for a very long time. This is not new. With every storm event things get worse. With Cabbage Tree Harbour, for example, the New South Wales Labor Government at the time funded a rock wall that was put in and has done the job. However, the rock wall, which was completed after we lost government, does not go the full length of Cabbage Tree Harbour. We now have a situation where the building on Crown land is owned by a fishing club but used by Marine Rescue Norah Head, which is one of only two ocean-located marine rescue units on the coast, the other being at Terrigal. In the time since that 2007 storm the erosion of the bank is now within one metre of the concrete pad. Every time there is a major storm, the building has to be evacuated and structurally examined because it is literally about to fall into the ocean.
I have written to the Crown lands Minister, the emergency services Minister and the council. They all point the finger at each other. They say that the building is owned privately or that it is on Crown land or that the council does not manage it. Everyone has a reason not to help. Meanwhile, Marine Rescue NSW is perched precariously on the edge of the embankment. There are photographs of each section as it has collapsed. Each time it happens letters are written and Scott Levi, on the local radio station, goes in to bat for the Marine Rescue people. Each time we get the answer, "It's not our problem."
It is fine to have these great plans and platitudes but it is almost impossible to get anything done, even when a Marine Rescue unit is at risk of losing its building. This is an important issue. It should not simply be about renaming a plan. We have gone from the coastal zone management plan to the coastal management plan. Things are changed around and tweaked around the edges but we are not addressing the problems. Councils do not have the resources to do the work that needs to be done. I agree that the Government provides grant programs and that the council should apply and make sure the work gets done. I am not uncritical of council's responsibility in that regard.
However, the plan submitted by council—not once, not twice, not three times but four times—has not been certified. I have undertaken research and cannot find out why. Council shrugs its shoulders; it does not know why the plan is not being certified. Its plan is written in almost the same terms as the Gosford plan, so the issue is not the language or the consultants. Nine supporting documents accompany the plan to underpin the science that has been used. However, the plan has not been certified, so the council cannot apply for funding. There is an issue at The Entrance North and if an issue arises at Cabbage Tree Harbour the council cannot get any money to rectify because its plan is not certified. I ask the Minister to look at what is wrong with the plan. Why does it keep getting knocked back? What is the council missing? What does it need to do to get the plan over the line? In 2018 the new Central Coast Council resubmitted the plan and it went out to public consultation. But here we are in 2021 and still it has not been certified. So there is an issue that we must address.
The Opposition supports extending the period for councils to complete their plan. But we call on the Government to take meaningful action to address coastal erosion. It is not good enough that every time there is a storm we have a big media blow‑up, the community holds meetings and committees are set up, only for the issue to dissipate slowly until the next storm. We had storms in 2007 and 2015 and again in 2021, but the problem is not getting fixed. It seems to roll on and on and gets put in the too‑hard basket. That is not good enough. We are not doing our communities justice by changing the names of the plans and requiring plans to be recertified when the crux of the issue, the management of the coastline, is not being addressed.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER:
I will now leave the chair. The House will resume at 2.15 p.m.