Internationally respected Coastal Zone Manager and Surfrider Foundation Advisor, Angus Gordon, has described the newly adopted changes to the NSW Coastal Protection Act as: “The worst piece of coastal legislation he has ever seen in any developed democracy ”
The Coastal Protection Amendment Bill 2012 was rushed through Parliament by Minister for the Environment and Minister for Heritage, Ms Robyn Parker, in an attempt to appease concerns of beachfront property owners. Angus Gordon says it fails the test miserably.
“This is an abhorrently retrograde step for both beach users and coastal property owners in NSW, it seeks to legislate for Government negligence while at the same time actually exposing property owners to potential liability claims, and threatening the general public with the loss of their beaches. People should not believe the misleading hype coming from the Minister, it is another “Parker disaster”.
Angus Gordon who has, in the past, been engaged by the United Nations as an expert advisor on coastal issues has enjoyed a distinguished career both in Australia and around the world is astonished that such a poor piece of legislation has been passed by an elected parliament. “Before it was elected the Liberal Government promised to repeal the unworkable legislation introduced in the dying days of the last Labor Government. Instead it has not only re-arranged the deckchairs on the Titanic but also blown a couple of extra holes in the hull so the disaster happens quicker. Changes to the legislation are needed but they must sensibly address both the plight of oceanfront property owners while at the same time ensuring the protection of the public beach and surfzone. The tools to achieve this are available”.
Mr Gordon should know, as he has over 40 years experience in coastal management and was involved in the drafting of the Coastal Act for NSW back in 1979.
“The fact that the new amendments were rushed through Parliament with untimely haste can only be seen as a demonstration of the Governments lack of commitment to, and understanding of, one of our greatest assets, the NSW coast. The real problem is that the amendments provide an incomplete and unworkable outcome that the Government says will be fixed up in stage 2…. This is like building a house then trying to fit the foundations later. NSW will be seen as an international laughing stock”
Surfrider Foundation Australia has slammed proposed changes to the NSW Coastal Protection Act as offering nothing at all good for the coast and its beach lovers.
“The name of the Bill should be the ‘Abandon all hope anyone who values the NSW coast bill’” said spokesman and National Surfrider Foundation Board Member Brendan Donohoe.
“The amendment changes the emphasis from protecting beaches to “defending” houses but even then the Amendment is flawed because it exposes coastal home owners who seek to protect their houses to potential litigation by their neighbours. Sandbags and rock walls will become our normal beach experience and why? To protect a very few privately owned super expensive houses whose owners can afford extensive litigation by their neighbours whose properties will be adversely affected !” Mr Donohoe said.
“In the end the ocean always wins the battle, he added. “ The effect of sea walls and other sandbag and rock barriers to protect property is well documented in study after study around the world.
“They destroy beaches. Plain and simple. And with the loss of the beach comes the ruination of wave breaks and coastal economies.”
Ten year ago the Surfrider Foundation’s “Line In The Sand” action saw around 3000 people line up along Collaroy/Narrabeen Beach to protest the proposed construction of a kilometre long seawall.
Mr Donohoe said: “If that sea wall had been built, by now there’s a very good chance there would be no beach left. Just rocks and a steep ocean drop off. The entire community would have been robbed of the main reason they chose to live in the area – for the chance to walk, run, surf and play on the beach…and all to protect a few properties.
“We spoke up as a community that day and nothing has changed our view, in fact it is with more resolve we fight and deplore this.”
Instead, Mr Donohoe said it was important that federal and state and local government worked together to implement sand nourishment works on the nation’s beaches most threatened by erosion.
“This new Bill is an idiotic and retrograde step for the beach loving community, it takes away virtually all broad policy guidelines regarding the sea level rise, the rise that is irrefutably happening.
“It throws the complex questions of how best to deal with the major threat to beaches back to local government that frankly often has trouble with wheelie bin services.
“It’s bad legislation that seeks to protect a very few vested interests at the expense of community as a whole” said Mr Donohoe.
“If we want beaches to remain as part of the Aussie way of life we must have legislation that enshrines this.”
“The science is in. Sea levels are rising. The only competent and socially responsible reaction is planned retreat coupled with a policy of sand nourishment.”
Following item from a Manly Daily story: Seawall plan will only suit “rich owners”Under the Coastal Protection Bill 2012, beachfront property owners will no longer have to wait until erosion is occurring or is imminent before they install temporary seawalls and they can leave them there for two years.BEACHFRONT PLANS
The law also lifts the restriction on property owners installing seawalls only once.
Landowners will also no longer need a certificate from their local council or the Office of Environment and Heritage before placing seawalls on private land.
The legislation also scraps the uniform benchmarks for sea level rise of up to 40cm by 2050 and of up to 90cm by 2100, which were being used by coastal councils used to develop their coastal management plans.
SURFRIDER FOUNDATION is a non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting waves and beaches.
Brendan Donohoe: 0422 900 501
Karen Raubenheimer: 0424 352 792
Angus Gordon*: 0410 534 624
*Angus Gordon has worked in coastal engineering for over 40 years in every state of Australia as well as in Brunei, Dubai, Indonesia and Hong Kong. He is widely published, particularly with regard to sea level rise due to climate change and is the lead author of the Engineers Australia original guidelines for change.
BELOW: Photo of 2002 ‘Line in the Sand’ from Collaroy to Narrabeen