Council adopts sea level benchmark


Council adopts sea level benchmark


July 12, 2013, 6 a.m.


A controversial policy that sets the planning benchmark for sea level rise across the shire was recently passed by Eurobodalla Council.

Last year the State Government withdrew legislation for a uniform approach to sea level rise and put the onus on local councils, taking into consideration regional variations.

Until now, Eurobodalla’s Interim Sea Level Rise Adaption Policy 2010 has applied and developers were responsible for meeting the cost of preparing hazard assessment reports.

Planning and sustainability services director Lindsay Usher said council must adopt “a consistent and defensible position on hazard risk management associated with sea level rise (that) will provide clarity to applicants”.

He said coastal councils were obliged to prepare a coastal zone management plan to manage development and community use but Eurobodalla’s process had been frustrated by the ongoing amendments of successive state governments.

“(The) State’s withdrawal from advising local councils on appropriate benchmarks and guidelines … has resulted in loss of a definitive long-term policy position on which councils can rely,” Mr Usher said.

“To reinitiate progress towards the preparation of the Eurobodalla coastal zone management plan, council must make a decision and adopt appropriate sea level rise planning benchmarks.”

Council was given four options: to adopt the current Interim Sea Level Rise Adaption Policy that reflects previous State Government advice; to collaborate with adjoining councils and engage an

independent consultant to examine

an appropriate benchmark; to proceed independently and engage an independent consultant; or to maintain existing policy.

At the most recent policy and strategy meeting, council endorsed a motion to collaborate with adjoining councils and engage an independent consultant.

“The proposed approach will facilitate more flexibility in the assessment of development through consideration of a wider range of planning periods, development designs and projected risk over the proposed development life,” Mr Usher said.

Decision could be ‘our most important’

Two lengthy submissions were put to Eurobodalla Council for consideration before the shire’s sea level rise policy was debated on July 2.

Peter Bernard of Dalmeny described it as “the most important decision to come before this council” while Long Beach Community Association’s David Lambert said, “I urge council to reject those recommendations”.

Mr Lambert argued the Interim Sea Level Rise Adaption Policy was no longer valid and that the annotations made to Section 149 certificates on 6003 properties in the Eurobodalla could also be considered as being invalid.

He also quoted Mike Sharpin from the Department of Environment who made a presentation to council last year during stage one of State coastal reforms.

According to Mr Lambert, Mr Sharpin said, “two of the outcomes from stage one of the NSW coastal reforms were the removal of the 40cm and 90cm state-wide benchmarks for sea level rise; and that planned retreat was the least favoured option for coastal planning.”

Mr Bernard said the report before council used references to obscure the facts.

“You were told that advice is no longer available to facilitate the preparation of a coastal zone management plan,” he said.

“This, according to advice received by me, like that presented to this council on community lands, appears not to be correct. It is not up to the citizens of this shire, by way of an unconstitutional form of government, to shoulder all of the responsibility.

“It is about time that this council on behalf of its citizens denied any responsibility for sea level rise. We are not the owners of the sea, its surface or bed. We do not control the sea or air temperatures, we are not generally responsible for any regional damage as a result of sea level rise,” he said.

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