Under the NSW Coastal Protection Act, which makes provisions for the use and occupation of the coastal region, the NSW government provides for the protection, preservation and sustainable use of coastal regions. On 21st October 2010, an Amendment Act was passed through parliament, amending several pieces of legislation pertaining to the coastal environment. This amendment affects the Coastal Protection Act, the Local Government Act 1993, and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. The primary intent of the amendment is to improve arrangements for dealing with coastal erosion. Recent weather events, escalating storm activity and flooding, and rising and changing sea levels have made it essential that the effects of erosion on the coastal strip and associated regions be addressed. This framework legislation does not outline specific solutions for individual areas, but rather provides a structure for management of a range of issues.
The Coastal Protection and other Legislation Amendment Act 2010
• Allows landowners in specific locations to place sand or sandbags on the beach under strict conditions as emergency coastal protection works to reduce the impact of coastal erosion on their property. Bags that cause erosion must be removed.
• Requires that authorities assessing development applications for long-term coastal protection works, such as seawalls, be satisfied that appropriate arrangements are in place to restore beaches if the constructions or work cause erosion.
• Allows local councils to levy a coastal protection service charge on land if current or past owners have voluntarily constructed coastal protection works. This charge covers council costs for maintaining the works and restoring the beach if the works cause erosion.
• Establishes a NSW Coastal Panel to provide expert advice to the Minister and councils on coastal management issues.
• Improves arrangements for coastal zone management planning, including coastal climate change adaptation.
• Strengthens the powers of authorised officers and orders powers in relation to illegal dumping on beaches. Penalties for this dumping are increased.
• Enhances exemptions from liability for councils and State agencies when their coastal management activities are carried out in good faith.
The Act is supported by a series of guidelines and accompanying regulation. The Coastal Protection Regulation 2011 commenced on 3 March 2011 and includes additional requirements that support these amendments.
Local councils that include identified “hot spots” in their regions have 12 months (or other agreed upon time frames) from the commencement of the Amendment Act to prepare coastal management plans. Councils are also required to prepare coastal erosion emergency action sub-plans by mid-2011, setting out how landowners, agencies and councils will respond in the event of storm-driven erosion. The government is providing funding to help councils prepare these plans.
It is advisable to seek expert legal advice on coastal property management. See your solicitor to understand your rights in the light of this amendment.