Following months of public consultation, the NSW Government has recently introduced the Coastal Management Bill 2016 to Parliament. The Bill will repeal the Coastal Protection Act 1979 and the Coastal Protection Regulation 2011 and is to establish a simpler, more contemporary legislative framework for the management of the NSW coastline.

The Bill contains new statutory objects consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development that recognise the vital natural social, cultural and economic values of the coastal area as well as the local and regional scale effects of coastal processes. The new objects also promote and encourage public participation and co-ordinated coastal planning.

The proposed legislation divides the ‘coastal zone’ into four coastal management areas including:

  • the coastal wetlands and littoral rainforests area
  • the coastal vulnerability area, being an area subject to coastal hazards such as beach erosion, shoreline recession and tidal inundation
  • the coastal environment area, which contains coastal features including coastal waters, estuaries, coastal lakes, coastal lagoons, headlands and rock platforms
  • the coastal use area, being an area of land adjacent to coastal waters, estuaries, coastal lakes and lagoons where development is present or may be carried out in the future.

Management objectives for each area will also be implemented to ensure councils apply the best management tools and development controls.

‘Coastal management programs’ are also introduced under the Bill, which over time will replace coastal zone management plans and set the long-term strategy for the co-ordinated management of land within the coastal zone. A local council may, and must if directed to do so by the Minister, prepare a coastal management program in accordance with the legislation, which requires consultation with the community and relevant public authorities.

Significantly, the Bill links coastal zone management planning with the planning that councils already invest in by requiring coastal management programs to be given effect within the local government Integrated Planning and Reporting Framework. This Framework is the main mechanism by which councils comprehensively plan for and report on their asset management and service delivery responsibilities. This linkage enables coastal management programs and identified coastal management activities to be feasible, financially viable, able to be resourced and aligned with broader community strategic plans that reflect community priorities.

Under the Bill, the Minister is also to publish a ‘coastal management manual’ to establish mandatory requirements and provide guidance in connection with the preparation, development, adoption, amendment, review and contents of coastal management plans. Compliance with the manual will ensure that councils fulfil their good faith obligations under the Local Government Act 1993.

The NSW Coastal Council will replace the NSW Coastal Panel as the new statutory body to provide advice on any matter referred to it by the Minister. At the request of the Minister, the Council may be tasked with auditing the performance of a local council’s implementation of its coastal management program in accordance with the coastal management manual and management objectives.

In terms of granting development consent for coastal protection works, the provisions of section 55M of the existing Coastal Protection Act will be included in the new Act. Provisions relating to conditions of consent have been incorporated into the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. To reduce regulatory overlap, the proposed Act will not include offences and enforcement powers. Rather, enforcement of new legislative arrangements will occur under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, extending the powers of consent authorities and other persons to give orders to do or to refrain from doing certain specified things on beaches, dunes or foreshores. Member of Parliament, Sarah Mitchell, said that these amendments will ‘ensure that unauthorised coastal protection works are treated the same as other unauthorised development and that any enforcement action follows a transparent and established process’.

The introduction of the Bill to Parliament coincides with the NSW Government’s announcement that it would improve the health of the State’s coastline with more than $80 million to repair eroded beaches and prepare for future hazards. Planning Minister Rob Strokes and Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian said the funds would also support local councils to increase the resilience of coastal communities, strategic coastal land-use planning and the coastal management reforms introduced by the Bill.