New coastal bill creates waves
RATEPAYERS in the Byron Shire will suffer if changes to coastal protection laws are passed by the State Government,according to Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham.
The proposed legislation could transfer the cost and liability of coastal protection works on to all ratepayers, Cr Barham said yesterday.
The State legislation shifted the burden of landowner works to protect private property back on to council and the community, she said.
“Council has been attempting to move towards a holistic shirewide app-roach so these matters do not have to keep being considered on a case-by-case basis,” she said.
“The proposed legislation retains the case-by-case regime without a long-term strategic plan.”
However, beachfront resident John Vaughan accused the mayor of scaremongering and dismissed her comments as ‘spin’.
He welcomed the prospect of landowners being able to protect their own property.
“This is what we have been proposing for many years,” he said.
Mr Vaughan said the proposed legislation would mean that council would not be able to take away protection works.
While payment for works was not the issue, he said it was only equitable that the cost of protecting the coastline was shared.
“In Lismore, you wouldn’t expect only those people living next to the levee to pay for itsupkeep,” he said.
Mr Vaughan said the head-on clash between the council and the State Government posed a serious threat to council’s policy of planned retreat.
He believed that comments by Cr Barham at an extraordinary general meeting last week to discuss the coastal amendment bill indicated a fear that planned retreat was dead in the water.
Cr Barham told the meeting the legislation was ‘very much likely to affect how Byron Shire Council operates, and disregarded the fact that we have had a planning principle in place for 22 years’.
The mayor’s constant repetition that planned retreat had been ‘policy’ for 22 years gave the impression it had some legal weight, which it did not, Mr Vaughan said.
The proposed law would enable councils to make an annual levy charge on coastal landowners, but Cr Barham asked ‘how is any council meant to project forward a reasonable cost budget to allow for unpredictable weather events and storm damage?’
“Further, if taken up by councils, the charge would only cover future works and would not cover costs of maintenance of works approved underdevelopment consentsissued to date.”
But Mr Vaughan said that up to now ‘all protection works have been paid for by residents, except for interim works carried out in 2002’.
“The mayor’s continued and constant misinformation about the approval/legal status of existing works is deeply concerning Belongil residents,” he said.
He said property values had dropped 50 per cent and no beachfront properties had been sold since the council’s ‘media blitz’ began.
“Contrary to Cr Barham’s comments, there are major benefits for council in relation to liability in the draft legislation,” he said.
The State Government will hold a briefing session on the bill tomorrow in Ballina.
WHO SHOULD PAY FOR COASTAL PROTECTION WORKS?
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