PART A: KEY ISSUES
Hastings Point is a small coastal hamlet beside a coastal estuary on the Tweed Coast in northern New South Wales. The Hastings Point Progress Association provides this submission as a Case Study of how the proposed changes will impact this estuary and its surrounds.
1. We generally welcome the Government’s efforts to develop new coastal protection laws for strategic planning and management of the coast in accordance with the principles of ecologically sustainability and for the long-term public interest.
Coastal zone/coastal management areas
2. The proposed new Coastal Management Areas must be further refined to provide clear and consistent protection for coastal environmental and public interest values, including within the Coastal Use Area. This refinement must include clear proposed local mapping in order that residents of locally impacted areas can make full and informed comment.
3. Existing protections for coastal wetlands and littoral rainforests should be retained and enhanced in the new SEPP, including important concurrence and assessment requirements.
4. Vulnerable Coastal Estuaries must be identified as coastal wetlands and afforded the same levels of protection.
5. Protections for other land and water bodies identified as being ecologically sensitive to impacts from coastal development activity (coastal environment area) should be consistent with the protections for coastal wetlands and littoral rainforests, and the management objectives for these areas should be accorded higher priority than Coastal Vulnerability and Coastal Use Areas.
6. Objectives for protecting and enhancing the environment should be included in the Coastal Use Area. The existing coastal zone boundary (generally 1km inland) should be used to retain current protection measures, and be fixed (unable to be increased or decreased).
CONCERNS REGARDING THE PROPOSED CHANGES TO THIS LEGISLATION
a. Coastal estuaries must be identified as coastal wetlands and afforded the same levels of protection to mitigate the threats of development, climate change, sea-level rise and flooding.
b. Estuaries which have been deliberately degraded must be rehabilitated to reflect their original flow patterns to mitigate localised flooding and sea-level rise. Tidal Estuaries are particularly vulnerable to regular convergences of high/king tide and storm water flooding.
c. Draft LEP and DCP amendments for Hastings Point which have been through exhibition stage and forwarded to the Department of Planning for gazettal which include any coastal zone mapping. Therefore any mapping for the proposed bill should be exhibited in draft text for comment prior to the bill being finalised.
d. The legislation needs to include strict compliance provisions.
e. Detailed Mapping needs to be provided in order that interested parties can provide a localised and informed response.
f. Where there are areas of contention such as Hastings Point where inappropriate and unsustainable development applications have been fought by local residents and Council for 30 years, there must independent community consultation before drafting of text and finalisation so far as its localised area is concerned.
g. Provision needs to be made for situations such as that which Hastings Point is experiencing. This appears to be quite unique insofar as draft LEP and DCP amendments have been through exhibition stage and forwarded to Department of Planning for gazettal – which are currently on hold – which propose potential new zones to address the inappropriate zoning in and around Hastings Point – particularly LOT 156, Creek Street – to address many issues, including but not limited to, flooding, environmental and amenity.
Tweed Council has engaged in extensive assessment and public consultation over a period of years to address the inappropriate zoning. Mapping and controls have been adjusted accordingly. The provision for remediation of degraded areas, protection of sensitive environmental areas and protection from flooding has been addressed carefully by the amendments to the LEP and DCP – these draft amendments should be recognised.
These amendments are currently in draft form and being held pending this legislation. Therefore, any coastal zone mapping should be exhibited in draft text for comment prior to the bill being finalised.
Coastal Management Programs
7. Requirements for councils developing coastal management programs set out in the proposed new Manual must be mandatory and enforceable to ensure that councils are using the best science, engaging local communities and adequately assessing and responding to threats to the coastal environment.
The 30 year period of contention over Lot 156 Creek Street has included numerous unlawful and inequitable practices which have been challenged both by Tweed Shire Council and the local community in Land and Environment Court hearings (see Attachment 2: Hastings Point Community Submissions pp 5-10). However remediation and compliance has not been effectively enforced to date. The LEP and DCP Amendments go some way in addressing past illegal infractions so protecting the environment, the community and its amenity.
NSW Coastal Council
8. A newly established Coastal Council is generally welcomed, however its functions and membership should be expanded to provide advice on an integrated approach to coastal management, including policy, strategic functions in relation to the new Act, and community engagement.
Climate change impacts
9. The coastal reform package must provide clearer requirements and guidance for climate change adaptation and mitigation, including in relation to flora and fauna species migration, more extreme weather events, increased flooding and inundation and sea level rise. These are all special issues to coastal, estuarial and floodplain issues relevant to Hastings Point.
Compliance and enforcement
10. Key elements of the coastal management package, including crucial requirements under the Coastal Manual, must be mandatary and enforceable.
11. The Government must publicly exhibit key elements of the coastal reform package, including the coastal zone mapping and the draft text of the proposed new State Environmental Planning Policy prior to the Bill being finalised. Mapping must be based on robust techniques at a meaningful scale and be local.
PART B: CASE STUDY: Hastings Point
Response to proposed changes
1. Coastal Wetlands and Littoral Rainforest.
Lot 156, Creek Street, Hastings Point is a large parcel of land which has been contentious for more than 30 years. Originally a pristine estuary, it has been degraded, dredged, bulldozed and mown over in an attempt to provide opportunities for development. Arguments around this issue, including a full chronology are included in Attachment 1- Hastings Point Community Submissions
The Coastal Wetlands and Littoral Rainforest OBJECTIVES would require this area to be rehabilitated and restored to mitigate the documented instances of sea-level rise, flooding, climate change and species migration (including endangered species such as Jabiru and Beach and Bush Stone Curlews which nest in the area and EEC communities such as Salt Marsh which is threatened by sea level rise)
Inclusion of coastal estuaries as Coastal Wetlands would bring immediate protection to highly vulnerable areas such as Hastings Point.
*We refer the reader to Attachment 1- Hastings Point Community Submissions Pages 10-27 for an in-depth assessment of the impacts of flooding and on flora and fauna of this degradation.
2. Coastal Vulnerability Area.
The objectives proposed under this category would, in the first instance, require full restoration of the 7 hectares of land illegally dredged from the estuary, followed by illegal clearing of littoral rainforest which is currently being mown in an attempt to claim this is development ready land. It would also require the reopening of a section of the estuary which was illegally dammed, and which has created ongoing flooding impacts on neighbouring properties.
*See Attachment 1- Page 4 for a history of these activities and legal action to date.
3. Coastal Environment Area
Estuaries, particularly those within a kilometre of the immediate coastline, must be considered wetlands if they are to be adequately protected in future. Maintaining estuarine health and ground water quality has been the primary objective of ongoing submissions to Tweed Shire Council and the NSW Department of Planning by the Hastings Point community over a period of 30 years.
*Attachment 1: Hastings Point Community Submission pp 17-22 contains a commissioned independent expert’s report by Australian Wetlands which outlines threats to, and impact on, the Marine and Wetlands Ecology of this area.
4. Coastal Use Area
The Tweed Shire Council has engaged in significant assessment and long term public consultation to address the inappropriate zoning and mapping has been adjusted accordingly. The provision for remediation of degraded areas, protection of sensitive environmental areas and protection from flooding has been addressed carefully by the amendments to the LEP and DCP – these draft amendments should be recognised.
PART B: ADDITIONAL TALKING POINTS
Coastal Management Bill 2016
· The draft Bill itself does not establish any legislative protections for sensitive coastal environments. It does not set any limits on development or include mandated requirements for decision makers. In order to achieve effective and meaningful protection for the coast, key controls and decision making requirements must be established in legislation.
· We support the overarching objective to manage the coastal environment of New South Wales in accordance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development, as defined in section 6 (2) of the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991.
· We generally support the specific objectives of the draft Bill, particularly protecting and enhancing environmental values, special acknowledgement of Aboriginal cultural heritage and use, ecologically sustainable coastal development and land use planning, mitigating future as well as current risks from coastal hazards, taking account of climate change, local and regional scale of coastal processes and implications of dynamic nature of the coast and managing use and development accordingly.
· Greater emphasis should be given to climate change and sea level rise impacts in Part A and Part B, Stage 1 of the Coastal Manual.
· It is of concern that councils could move directly from Stage 1 (scoping study) to Stage 4 (exhibition and adoption of a Coastal Management Program) without addressing Stage 2 (detailed studies of vulnerabilities and opportunities) and Stage 3 (response identification and evaluation), particularly given that the consideration of important issues, such as social and cultural values, vegetation, biodiversity and ecological integrity, hydrology, and water quality is required at Stage 2.
· Part B, Stage 5 should provide further guidance on how feedback provided during public exhibition will be responded to or incorporated into the final Coastal Management Program.
· The Coastal Manual provides too much discretion for local councils. Key components of the Manual must be obligatory for councils and enforceable via the legislation. However where local councils mapping is stronger and more localised than state mapping and protects the environmental sustainability of the local area, this needs to be given precedence
· The Coastal Manual must ensure coastal management programs are strategic, adopt an integrated approach, consistent with ESD principles, are consistent with a hierarchy of objectives which accords priority to assessment of and planning for Coastal Wetlands, Littoral Rainforests and Coastal Environment Areas ahead of and as the foundation for Coastal Vulnerability and Coastal Use Areas.
· The Coastal Manual should also ensure that Councils are relying on recognised expert, peer-reviewed evidence and advice and appropriate assessment in responding to existing and predicted threats to the coastal environment, whilst providing for community engagement throughout the process.
· Mechanisms should be established under the new framework to ensure that coastal management planning and impact assessment is carried out by qualified experts and subject to rigorous external review.
· The new framework must include mechanisms for ensuring that the cumulative impact of development on sensitive environments is taken into account in coastal management planning and development assessment.
Floodplain management issues
· The reform package provides limited integration between coastal management and floodplain management. This is a significant gap, given the overlap between increased coastal flooding and inundation, with threats of sea level rise and increased storminess and more intense catchment runoff arising from climate change. This is a vital issue for places like Hastings Point.
Land acquisition provisions
Given the significant environmental values and the vulnerability of the coastal zone, existing coastal land acquisition provisions need to be retained.
The existing provisions of SEPP 50 – Canal Estate Development, which prohibits any new canal estate development throughout NSW, must be transparently retained in the coastal reform package.
Coastal Management State Environmental Planning Policy
The following points have been prepared to assist you in responding to the nine question outlined in the ‘Coastal Management State Environmental Planning Policy – Statement of Intended Effect’
· Question 1. Should councils be able to propose changes to the maps for all or some of the coastal management areas?
Given that substantial research and analysis will be undertaken to prepare the initial maps, there should be limited need for councils to change maps. Any changes outside of regular map review should be strictly limited and supported by clear scientific evidence. Proposed changes must also go through a process of public consultation.
· Question 2. Should the development controls be included in the proposed Coastal Management SEPP or as a mandatory clause in Council LEPs?
The Development Controls should be included in the SEPP to ensure the application of controls across Councils is consistent with the Objects of the Act and SEPP.
· Question 3. Do the proposed development controls for mapped coastal wetlands and littoral rainforests remain appropriate for that land?
The existing controls for mapped coastal wetlands and littoral rainforests should be maintained, including concurrence provisions.
· Question 4. Do you support the inclusion of a new 100m perimeter area around the mapped wetlands, including the application of additional development controls.
Yes. Further, the 100m buffer area of a coastal wetland should apply to land zoned for residential use, including immediately around tidal estuaries.
· Question 5. Are the proposed development controls for mapped coastal vulnerability areas appropriate for the land?
The proposed controls are appropriate but can be strengthened by specifically requiring that development consent is required for any damage or removal of removal of coastal dunes, foreshores, vegetation and wetlands (including tidal estuaries). This consent then needs to be subject to strict and enforceable compliance measures.
· Question 6. Are the proposed development controls for coastal environment areas appropriate for that land?
The proposed development controls are appropriate, but can be strengthened by requiring that the consent authority establish that the proposal meets the criteria, and requiring the consent authority to consider cumulative impacts, on environment, and local amenity and safety. However Tidal Estuaries must be included as Wetlands in order to protect them and their associated fish nurseries.
· Question 7 – Is the inclusion of the catchments of the 15 sensitive coastal lakes (listed in Schedule 1) within coastal environment area appropriate?
Yes, it is very important that the conservation value and sensitivity of these lakes and lagoons are recognised by constraining development that would adversely impact on these values. However it is concerning that the coastal zone applicable to other coastal lake catchments could be reduced from 1 kilometre to 500m.
· Question 8. Which is the best option for mapping the Coastal use Area?
The existing coastal zone boundary would be the most appropriate in most areas, given that no case for change has been made. Therefore the current boundary should be used to retain current protection measures, and be fixed. For Hastings Point we note the mapping associated with the DCP and LEP amendments needs to be heeded with further community consultation to determine final mapping.
· Question 9. Should councils be able to propose variations to the Coastal Use Area maps over time to take into account local characteristics and conditions?
If Councils wish to expand the development footprint in parts of their Region, this should be done consistent with Regional Planning Processes and review of LEPS as has occurred through the community consultation development of appropriate and necessary amendments to DCP and LEP at Hastings Point. Councils also need to be able to impose deterrent level penalties for non-compliance.