Mother Nature Versus Beachside Living
Youd imagine that owning a beach house might serve to reduce stress levels. The sound of waves; the feel of sand beneath your toes; that nature-inspired switch-off from work pressures.
But these days, the fear of rising sea levels, erosion and increasingly violent storms has many sea-side property owners worried. How do you protect your home against Mother Nature? Does the law even let you try?
The Coastal Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Act commenced in January this year. It aims to address some of the issues around coastal protection and property damage.
The new laws give local councils clearer guidelines for managing coastal erosion areas. Among other things, Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMPs) now have to include an emergency action subplan, stating what landowners and other agencies can do when severe weather looms and erosion seems likely. And councils must now speed up their completion of CZMPs in erosion hotspots.
A specialist NSW Coastal Panel has been set up to advise councils. In the absence of a CZMP, the Panel will decide whether or not development consent is given for long-term coastal protection works (CPWs), such as building sea walls or replacing sand. But control over CPWs is tight because hard structures that appear to protect a property, (eg. sea walls); may actually serve to worsen the erosion problem, as they prevent sand from returning to rebuild beach and dune systems.
Home owners can apply to construct CPWs, but will have to pay for their ongoing maintenance. And the works cant unreasonably limit public access to the beach, or threaten public safety.
One change receiving particular attention is the new provision for emergency coastal protection works (ECPWs). Home owners may be able to take emergency actions without development consent.
But its mighty complicated. They have to first apply to Council, or the Department of Environment Climate Change and Water (DECCW) for a certificate, which costs $110. And there are stringent rules. To name just a few, you can place temporary sandbags or sand on a beach, but not rocks or concrete. According to the DECCWs draft guidelines, a surveyor should certify that the home at risk is within 10 metres of the erosion site, and a senior police officer and a professional engineer must advise that there is no significant safety risk when work takes place. There are even requirements for the sands origin and the bags material.
Its a lot to think about in the midst of a raging storm. Being prepared, such as pre-purchasing resources and having relevant contacts, would seem wise.
According to many coastal erosion experts the unfortunate reality is this; properties in some NSW coastal settlements were built too close to the dunes and ultimately cant be protected.