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The 27th NSW Coastal Conference was held last week at Merimbula on the NSW far south coast. What a wonderful location enjoyed by 250 delegates. This is the first time the conference had been held in Bega Valley Shire, a tribute to the hard work and persistent endeavours of Derek van Bracht. As noted by the Mayor in her welcoming address, the Shire’s greatest natural asset is its 225km coastline with its 101 ocean beaches, 29 estuaries and ICOLLs and national parks. And this coastline has experienced the long history of the Yuin nation and from diverse cultural and economic activities since colonial days. Yet it has recently been subjected to hardship and tragedy following the devastating bushfires at Tathra earlier this year. To host a conference under such circumstances is remarkable and was seen as a boost to the local community.

Each year the NSW coastal family gathers to meet and greet, for an exchange of ideas and to hear from speakers with a wide range of coastal interests. Derek and Will Glamore convened a pre-conference forum on estuaries. The view was that not enough attention had been given to estuary research and management over the years. This forum was attended by 55 participants who are passionate about the health and future of NSW waterways under enormous pressure from population growth, pollution and potential impacts of climate change. The need to embrace land use practices in catchments that feed the estuaries was stressed including where these catchments extend outside the statutory coastal zone.

As usual, the conference attracts outstanding keynote speakers; this year was no exception. Each of the three women speakers developed in different ways the climate change theme. Kathy McInnes from CSIRO took us through latest advances in climate change research as related to the ocean and cryosphere. This enabled us to understand better the nature, impacts and risks associated with extreme events. I learnt a new acronym, FAR or Fraction of Attributable Risk, related to what fraction of an event can be attributed to climate change. In summary, Kathy stated that there is “not great news for NSW” as far as future risk exposure is concerned along our coast. Sarah Barker, took a different tact: she followed the money trail and showed how internationally as well as in Australia climate change must be seen as a financial and liability risk and this intersects with the interests of state and local governments. To complete the keynotes, Maria Byrne went into graphic detail to show how global warming in the form of ocean heat waves were bleaching corals—her pitch was “corals are feeling it hot” and the future is somewhat bleak hence again the call for the world to move away from the horrible RCP 8.5 business as usual emission trajectory to what the Paris agreement is requiring.

Each year there are many excellent presentations and posters. One cannot attend them all but those that I saw made me very proud of the work by academics, consultants, and local and state government staff on coastal issues. Field trips are an important component of any coastal meeting and this year the beauty and diversity of the Bega Valley Shire coastal region was on display. The conference is also an occasion to present awards. This year there was stiff competition for some categories. We were pleased to offer the new local hero award to Stuart Cameron, a botanist who has done incredible work on identifying and eradicating invasive plants in this Shire. Angus Gordon received the lifetime award for achievement, the Ruth Readford Award. He has devoted his life to better management and understanding of the NSW coast, a true coastal champion. The 2018 NSW Coastal Management Award winners are listed below

Members of the NSW Coastal Council had an opportunity to hear from delegates matters of concern in the development of Coastal Management Programs that form the core of the new coastal reforms.  We distributed a questionnaire in advance and met with participants on two occasions in plenary sessions. In this way we were able to listen to views and give some feedback. The Coastal Council saw this as an important opportunity to show the coastal community how it can assist those in local government, the regional officers in state agencies and community groups on implementation of the reforms. We hope these meetings were helpful, but we realise much more needs to be done. In this connection we will continue to listen and assist wherever we can.


2018 NSW Coastal Management Awards



Ocean Watch Australia’s Living Shorelines Program

Local Government:

Winner: Sutherland Shire Council  

Highly Commended: Eurobodalla Shire Council

The Emeritus Professor Bruce Thom AM Student Research:

Christopher Owers, University of Wollongong

Community Involvement (joint winners):

South Durras Landcare & Tathra Landcare

Public Good:

NSW Oyster Industry

Local Hero:

Stuart Cameron

Ruth Readford Award for Lifetime Achievement:

Angus Gordon


Words by Prof Bruce Thom. Please respect the author's thoughts and reference appropriately: (c) ACS, 2018, posted 14 November 2018, for correspondence about this blog post please email austcoastsoc@gmail.com