NSW Environment Minister Rob Stokes has announced the development of reforms to the State’s coastal management laws, including improved technical support and new funding arrangements for local government coastal management initiatives.

The coastal reform package is expected to come before the State Parliament at the end of 2015 and will replace the 35-year-old Coastal Protection Act, which the Minister said no longer achieves the desired integrated and balanced approach to coastal management.

Minister Stokes said the reforms will include:

  • Replacing current laws with a new coastal management Act, which will be less complex than the previous Act and would be a better fit with land use planning and local government legislation;
  • New arrangements to better support council decision-making, including a new coastal management manual and improved technical advice; and
  • A clearer system of funding and financing coastal management action.

The Minister said the new Act would require coastal councils to undertake coastal zone management planning within the local government framework and would put coastal management needs at the core of the council’s planning responsibilities.

“Councils under ministerial direction to prepare coastal zone management plans should continue to do so, and the government expects them to be submitted as soon as possible,” he said.

An exposure draft Bill is expected to be released in mid 2015 to provide an opportunity for members of the public to have their say on the proposed reforms.

Information on the Office of Environment & Heritage (OEH) website indicates that the coastal reform package is focused on improving the way NSW Government agencies support council decision making.

It notes that the support to councils needs to be strengthened so councils can better manage existing and emerging coastal hazards, and important coastal and estuarine values, in consultation with their communities.

The web site indicates the NSW Government will work in partnership with councils to co-design a new coastal management manual. The new manual will consolidate current guidelines and fill critical gaps that councils have already begun to identify.

The reforms will also focus on identifying sustainable funding and financing arrangements for coastal management activities. The OEH web site notes that the costs of coastal management actions often exceed councils’ capacity to pay, and currently there is no clearly agreed approach for councils to identify who should be expected to contribute to those costs.

To address this, the new arrangements will be based on a set of cost sharing principles to fairly and transparently identify who benefits from proposed coastal management actions, and therefore who should contribute to the costs.

More information – http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/coasts/coastreforms.htm