New South Wales
The Coastal Management Bill 2016 passed parliament last week, part of a coastal reform package that will include a Coastal Management SEPP and replaces the Coastal Protection Act 1979 and the Coastal Protection Regulation 2011. The long title of the Bill states that it is to make provision for the ecologically sustainable management, use and occupation of the NSW coast, this aims to be achieved by:
-simpler legislative framework for the management of the coast
-creation of four coastal management areas that determine what actions can be taken in those areas
-greater discretion for individual local councils to manage their area
-introduction of coastal management programs which set the long-term strategy for the coordinated management of land within the coastal zone
-establishment of the NSW Coastal Council to provide advice to the Minister and to other public authorities
However, the attempt at a streamlined system could come at the cost of regulatory oversight. As an example, the coastal management programs are not mandatory for those local councils within the coastal zone unless directed by the Minister, and even if they are made, failure to meet its requirements when a local council is preparing development control plans and local environment plans will not constitute a breach. As developing a complex document like a coastal management program would inevitably require resources that local councils might not have, it is unclear what the utility of the programs will be especially as they are not required to be adhered to in certain situations. The recent east coast low (a form of cyclone) shows the importance of proper long term land use planning and the competing interests that local councils must deal with, it remains to be seen whether the greater autonomy of local councils will improve or exacerbate that situation. Inevitably the ferocity of the recent storm will raise the question about the impact of climate change, but east coast lows are common for this time of year and climate models suggest that the number storms with the intensity of the recent one will not significantly increase. However, that does not take into account higher sea levels, increasing sea surface temperature and changing rainfall intensity, these factors mean that in the future more properties will become vulnerable to storm surges. Furthermore, unlike the Coastal Protection Act 1979, the Coastal Management Bill does not include offences and relevant enforcement powers, while not obvious from reading the legislation, are found under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 apply.
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