New South Wales Coastal Reforms - NSW Coastal Council's first meeting

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On 3 April this year, the coastal reforms of the NSW Government were formally promulgated. During this past week the first meeting of the new NSW Coastal Council took place in the presence of the Minister for Environment and Heritage, the Hon Gabrielle Upton MP. Under Schedule 2, section 16 of the Coastal Management Act, 2016, the Minister responsible for the Act may call the first meeting. While there had been informal meetings of some members the new Council, it was important that the Minister meet with members and provide directions as required under this Act. These directions are consistent with provisions of the Act and the need for the Council to commence the preparation of a work program. This is now underway given the functions of the Council as per the Act.

I am personally very pleased with the development of these reforms. Yes, it has taken time. However, it has been necessary to examine an array of complex issues along the way and ensure that the entire package is as comprehensive and as integrated as possible. There are five elements to what we now call the new coastal management framework: the CM Act; the Coastal Management State Environmental Planning Policy 2018 (CM SEPP); the NSW Coastal Management Manual 2018; the NSW Coastal Council; and the Coastal and Estuary Grants Program. An overview of the framework can be found online or obtained from the Office of Environment and Heritage, 59 Goulburn Street, Sydney, 2000, and through info@environment.nsw.gov.au.

Now it is time to get stuck into implementation of the reforms. This will be a challenging time, but the new independent Coastal Council will be in a position to provide advice on issues that may arise from time to time. Procedures will established to assist communities, councils and agencies engage in processes that will facilitate implementation. This will include application of provisions in other NSW Government legislation including those related to planning, local government, lands, parks, marine estate, and roads and maritime.

The Act sets out 13 objectives for coastal management in NSW. It provides for a Manual to assist local councils prepare Coastal Management Programs or CMPs. These CMPs apply to a Coastal Zone which is made up of four Coastal Management Areas (CMAs) that are mapped under the CM SEPP. In this way there is to be a more targeted approach to the management of a diversity of environments including wetlands, littoral rain forests, and state waters, to natural hazards (7 hazards are listed in the Act), to development activities and other uses of the NSW coast. In addition, the CM SEPP establishes development controls to be applied by consent authorities under the EP&A 1979 in each coastal management area with the intent to achieve the objectives of the CM Act. The CM SEPP has been prepared by the Department of Environment and Planning. The Minister of Planning has also provided a direction to councils with respect to implementation of planning matters including the use of the Coastal Design Guidelines 2003.

The new Coastal Management Manual is a key component of the reforms. It greatly expands on past guidance documents and offers councils a more integrated approach to local and regional coastal management. It establishes mandatory requirements and guidance to help councils to prepare, develop, adopt, implement, monitor, review and amend CMPs. The Manual provides information to help evaluate and select management actions that are both technically and financially feasible; these actions are to be incorporated into council’s Integrated Planning and Reporting framework (IP&R) and land-use planning instruments. Here we see the role of both Local Government Act and EP&A Act in reinforcing the CM Act to achieve effective ways to best manage the four areas that make up the coastal zone. In places that will require cooperation between adjoining councils.

Bruce Thom, Chair, NSW Coastal Council.

Words by Prof Bruce Thom. Please respect the author’s thoughts and reference appropriately: (c) ACS, 2018, posted 2 July 2018, for correspondence about this blog post please email austcoastsoc@gmail.com 

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