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Planning for our Coastline

A changing coastline

The coastal zone landscape that we know today formed in response to rapid sea level rise between 15,000 and 6,500 years ago. Continuing minor fluctuations of sea level and changes in storm patterns over the last 6500 years are recorded in the sediments of bays coastal lakes. Within historical times, occasional major events, such as the storms of May 1974, demonstrate how the coastal landscape can change quickly and dramatically, putting homes, surf clubs and community infrastructure at risk. To manage the coast well, Council’s plans must prepare people and assets for these damaging events.

Healthy coastline, estuary and lake systems have healthy natural processes and are resilient to major events and threatening processes. Healthy coastal systems underpin the well being and resilience of local communities.

Beaches change from day to day and season to season with tides, storms and calm weather. Beaches and dunes also change in the longer term in response to wind direction, storminess, ocean currents and sea level rise. Some of these changes take years; others take decades. Scientific knowledge of these processes is growing all the time.

Our coastal communities have also changed. During the 1950s and 1960s the coast was made up of isolated holiday hamlets with camping grounds and fishing and beach shacks. Many villages have been redeveloped with larger and more permanent homes, busier shopping and business centres and lots of summer tourists. Change will continue as more people move to the Shoalhaven - some to retire, some to bring up families in a pleasant regional environment.

To meet the needs of changing environment and communities, and as scientific knowledge grows, Government laws, policies and investment programs are adjusted.

Planning to protect our environment and community

2004 - Planning begins
Shoalhaven City Council begins coastal zone management planning with a preliminary review of coastal hazards (such as beach erosion, flooding by big storm waves and slumping of cliffs and bluffs.)

2006 - Detailed studies
Council completes detailed studies of coastal hazards for urban areas in 2006.

2007 and 2008 - The community is consulted
Council talks to local residents about how they imagine the coast in the future. Community meetings are held in Callala Bay, Callala Beach, Vincentia, Mollymook and Ulladulla. Residents and ratepayers provide many suggestions about issues now and the future of the coast. Many people also send Council written comments.

2008 - Council produces a working draft
Council produces a working draft of the comprehensive Coastal Zone Management Plan for the City drawing on community ideas and technical studies.

Click here to read the Executive Summary of the 2008 draft Plan.

2009 - New NSW Government sea level rise policy announced
Council takes into account a new NSW Government policy about climate change and sea level rise. The policy was developed in response to national and international studies of how climate change will affect the coast. Storms and sea level are two of the biggest factors causing severe coastal erosion. Higher sea level means bigger erosion risks to coastal property and beach-side reserves, as well as surf clubs, roads, sewer lines and other community services.

The Australian Coastal Councils Conference hears in March how climate change will impact on coastal environments. Councils along the NSW South Coast draft a Statement of Intent about a regional response to sea level rise and other aspects of climate change.

Shoalhaven City Council continues to revise and update its draft Coastal Zone Management Plan, to make sure it is based on the best available information. The detailed coastal hazard assessments have already been revised, highlighting possible impacts on many coastal properties and coastal bushland over the next 25, 50 and 100 years.

A Coastline Management Committee made up of residents, council and agency staff and councillors continue to meet regularly to discuss coastal issues and the results of studies.

2010 - Draft plan completed.

2012 - Draft plan revised to incorporate changes to NSW legislation and guidelines.

The community's concerns

Issues frequently raised by local communities along the Shoalhaven coast are summarised below.

Issue or concern reported by community representatives Localities where residents reported this concern
Coastal processes and climate change - impacts
Impact of climate change induced erosion on coastal dunes and beach amenity, as well as on the foreshore reserve properties. Currarong, Culburra Beach, Collingwood, Callala Bay, Callala Beach, Mollymook.
Impact of climate change-driven processes on the integrity of community infrastructure including roads, pathways, sewerage systems, water supply. Currarong, Mollymook, Berrara, Ulladulla, Collingwood.
Impact of geotechnical instability of cliffs and bluffs on private property. Penguin Head, Bannisters Point
Impact of geotechnical instability of cliffs and bluffs on safety (paths, viewing spaces on the edge of the bluff). Nelson, Orion, Barfleur Beaches, Plantation Point, Hyams Beach.
Urban water management - flows and quality
Management of discharges from storm water drains and small coastal creeks. Discharges perceived to affect water quality (urban runoff and/or septic tank effluent), land surface geotechnical stability and dune erosion. Wowley Creek, Moona Creek, Mollymook Creek, various headlands, Kioloa Creek.
Access management through coastal reserves
Decision-making and communication processes relating to the number of tracks, spacing of tracks and maintenance of tracks across dunes, on headlands and along bluffs (linking beaches). Currarong, Culburra Beach, Shoalhaven Heads, Mollymook, Narrawallee, Cudmirrah, Berrara, Collingwood Beach, Gannet Beach, Cormorant Beach.
Private use of public reserve lands on dunes and bluffs, including garden encroachment, private access ways and blocking other public access (reported as both dune vegetation and equitable access to the coast issue) Bannisters Point, Mollymook Beach, Collingwood Beach, Callala Beach.
Conflicts on beaches - most often in relation to dog exercise areas. Shoalhaven Heads Beach, Mollymook Beach, Narrawallee Beach
Access suitability for diverse user groups - aged, disabled, variety of recreational users, permanent residents and visitors. Callala, Huskisson/Vincentia area, Mollymook.
Vegetation in foreshore reserves
Management of vegetation on coastal bluffs and cliffs, including weed removal, drainage, species selection and contribution to instability. Penguin Headland, Racecourse Headland, Bannisters Point
Vegetation management on coastal dunes, particularly in relation to height and density of rehabilitated vegetation along urban foreshores.
Impact on views.
Intent and function of rehabilitated landscapes.
Collingwood Beach, Mollymook Beach, Narrawallee Beach, Berrara, Cormorant Beach, Gannet Bach.
Management of invasive species on coastal dunes. All beaches.