Erosion taking toll on councils

COASTAL protection issues will be centre stage on the North Coast in coming weeks as politicians debate new laws and some erosion-hit regions are forced to close streets to protect the public.

Property owners and local governments will be watching proceedings in the NSW Parliament after a bill to protect the coastline was introduced last Friday.

Speaking to the bill, Climate Change Minister Frank Sartor said about 200 houses at 15 hot spots were at risk in the event of a significant coastal storm.

“This number is expected to increase with projected sea level rise,” Mr Sartor said.

The town of Kingscliff had a blast of reality at the weekend when Tweed Shire Council workers closed off a Faulks Park access road as another few metres of ground was lost.

The dense treeline that once stood tall on the dunes at the southern end of Kingscliff Beach is now all but gone.

The Coastal Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Bill before Parliament is bound to have a rough passage.

Mr Sartor said the bill would better equip councils and communities to deal with coastal erosion.

“The bill provides the balance between protecting beaches and allowing landowners to protect their homes,” Mr Sartor said.

It increased the options for councils and landowners to protect their properties from erosion, both when a severe storm was forecast, and in the longer term, he said.

But in Byron Shire, the proposed legislation is likely to produce greater conflict in both sides of the debate.

Groups such as the Belongil Progress Association have welcomed provisions of the bill, such as the thumbs-up for landowners to temporarily place sand or sandbags on beaches.

Such moves fly in the face of Byron Shire Council's policy of planned retreat.

Mayor Jan Barham is concerned about theoverall tenor of the proposed legislation.

“It is part of a worrying trend to transfer the liability, accountability and responsibility back to local governments, without giving them any say,” Cr Barham said.

“Any provisions that allow for random development without proper assessment is a concern, because it will be local government which will eventually wear the cost,” she said.

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