Immediately before going into caretaker mode prior to forthcoming elections, Shoalhaven Councillors voted to proceed with public exhibition of the controversial Collingwood Beach Dune Vegetation Plan. This is despite a petition signed by 945 people objecting to the Plan.
Under this Plan, 1.5 km of dune vegetation would be lopped to 1 -1.5 m. This vegetation has been repeatedly vandalised by foreshore property owners to improve their views. The result? A “skeleton alley’ of unsightly dead trees.
Instead of persisting with deterrents, like the short lived banner at the worst vandalism site, Council appears to have developed this Plan to appease an influential group of foreshore property owners.
Councillors have voted to put this ill-conceived Plan on public exhibition knowing that it will:
- undermine 40 years of dune rehabilitation;
- de-stabilise the dune;
- reduce ecological values;
- set a dangerous precedent; and
- expose Shoalhaven ratepayers to unacceptable legal and financial risks.
The Plan is inconsistent with Council’s Foreshore Reserves Policy. E.g. Section 3.6 Views:
“Where Council is required to revegetate foreshore lands following unauthorised removal of vegetation, such revegetation will aim, at a minimum, to restore the former quality of the Reserve – the status quo.”
Worse, the Plan is inconsistent with Council’s key planning document, the Local Environment Plan. Collingwood Beach is in the Coastal Risk Planning Zone. LEP Section 7.4 requires Council “to avoid significant adverse impacts from coastal hazards” in this zone. Council’s consultants, NGH say the Plan will achieve the opposite. They advised Council the Plan poses a risk to dune stability, and the area will become “more susceptible to extreme weather conditions that could result in adverse impacts to private and public assets as well as the ecological values of the reserve.”
We all saw what happened at Collaroy Beach during the East Coast Low that hit the NSW coast in June. Proceeding with this Plan, knowing it will increase the risk of damage to properties and infrastructure from extreme weather events, is reckless and irresponsible. With many of Collingwood Beach’s foreshore properties and the shared pathway in the “Immediate Zone of Reduced Foundation Capacity”, the Plan will expose Council and ratepayers to unacceptable legal and financial risks.
The Plan will cost ratepayers $120,000. Who benefits from this proposal? A small number of private property owners. Who will pay for the resulting damage to private properties and public infra-structure? Shoalhaven ratepayers. Is this fair? No. ■