NSW Coastal Management Framework

Many communities in NSW enjoy the benefits of living right on the coast, but need to be able to respond to existing and future coastal management challenges and opportunities. 

The NSW Government has established an integrated coastal management framework to guide how this can be achieved, to manage the use and development of the coastal environment in an ecologically sustainable way, through the Coastal Management Act 2016. 

Specific directions on how to do this from a land use planning perspective is provided through the State Environmental Planning Policy (Coastal Management) 2018. This specifies how development proposals are to be assessed if they fall within the coastal zone.

Council’s Role

The role of local governments, like Northern Beaches Council, is to turn this guidance into reality on the ground, making sure that our coastline and public assets are well maintained, and working with residents to manage their risks and obligations as coastal landowners. 

We do this by setting out the long-term strategy for management of the coastal zone, identifying coastal management issues, the actions required, who is responsible for each action, and how and when those actions will be delivered, such as in the Coastal Zone Management Plan for Collaroy-Narrabeen and Fishermans Beach (2016).

Having these strategies in place means that appropriate developments and coastal protection works can be approved, as long as they meet the legal requirements.

Working together, we make every effort to ensure we can have resilient coastal communities living on and enjoying a healthy coast, now and into the future.

The history of seawalls at Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach

There is a long history of informal seawalls being in place at Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach. During historic storms as far back as the 1930’s rocks and other material were placed on the beach to manage the impacts of erosion.

 Over time this has created an almost continuous informal seawall from Collaroy to South Narrabeen. The footage in video above was taken in 2016 and shows how much rock there is on the public beach. Peoples ability to get onto and walk along the beach as well as enjoy it safely is impacted when this informally placed rock is exposed following storms. Building properly designed seawalls within private property enables this rock to be removed.

The Coastal Zone Management Plan for Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach and Fishermans Beach, first adopted by Council in 2014 and then amended in 2016, enables residents at Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach to submit development applications for seawalls that protect their properties.

Support for Collaroy residents 

Since the east coast low in June 2016, which affected a number of Collaroy properties, Council has worked through multiple issues with the NSW government in order to allow private property to be protected and to enable property owners to access public land for that purpose.

This has been a complex process, requiring changes to both local and state government policies. 

Council is the first in NSW to facilitate State Government funding for private coastal erosion works. There were no examples or mechanism available under the Coastal Management Program which meant everything we tried forged new ground and established a precedent for the State Government’s interaction with other coastal Councils. 

In addition, the protection works in some cases encroach on the public beach which is Crown Land and needs separate approvals and agreement with the State Government. Council worked with the State Government on behalf of property owners to broker a way forward. 

As a result of coastal protection works on or adjacent the beach, Council also has an obligation to consider how these works could affect the beach. Each DA is assessed on its merits and its adherence to State legislation and Council’s policies. Of particular focus, is the need to consider how future climate change could affect the works and ultimately the beach.

Council has had to involve multiple government departments, local members of parliament and state government ministers to enable residents to legally protect their own properties and while there is still a way to go for residents before their works are constructed, there is now a clear path forward that will allow them to protect their homes without significant impact on our beaches.

Collaroy-Narrabeen Seawall Financial Assistance

In a first for NSW, Council has now successfully obtained a State Government grant for contributions towards private coastal protection works. And at its meeting of 26 March 2019 Council also resolved to provide funding assistance to all eligible property owners.

Eligible residents can apply for up to 20% of the value of protection works – funded 10% each by Council and the NSW Government.  Read more

Current situation – Approval of DA’s

Council has received a number of Development Applications for protection works for private properties. Before approval is given, Council must be sure that the proposal meets all of the legal requirements. 
For example, under the Coastal Management SEPP, approval cannot be granted if a development is likely to cause an adverse impact on coastal environmental values and natural coastal processes, existing public open space and safe access to and along the foreshore, beach, headland or rock platform, or the use of the surf zone. 

Another key requirement is section 27 of the Coastal Management Act, which guides granting of development consent relating to coastal protection works. This section requires a condition that makes sure the works done today will not impact on public safety or people’s ability to access and enjoy the adjoining public beach now or in the future.

Council has approved eight Development Applications for coastal protection works submitted by residents. These applications represent 29 of the 49 land parcels requiring coastal protection.

Council has been assisting residents with the approval process, particularly with addressing the requirements of the Act and Council/State planning controls, and will continue to do so.
Some residents will still require consent from Crown Lands to undertake the works if they extend onto the public beach.

Property status for seawalls post June 2016 storm

Map with colour coded areas where seawall application has been submitted / approved.

DA conditions

The DA conditions have been designed to meet the requirements of the NSW Coastal Management Act 2016, and include provisions for the resident to:

  • Build to at least Council’s engineering standards, and be certified by a qualified Coastal Engineer;
  • Maintain the protective sea wall to ensure it doesn’t impact on the adjoining public beach or neighbours;
  • Have a “time limited consent”, to ensure that over the life of the works, (designed for 60 years) that they will not limit public access to the beach, nor pose a threat to public safety. In effect, this means the seawall must be assessed in 60 years to ensure that it provides protection against the unknown future condition of our coast. 

The current conditions have been tested in proceedings in the NSW Land & Environment Court, however, Council has been working with residents on alternatives when they are proposed as part of the application process.

Protection of Public Assets

Council has a responsibility, amongst others, to protect public assets including carparks, road ends and its buildings.

Council has recently constructed a seawall to protect Collaroy carpark, which at 250m in length is the largest of 11 public assets at Collaroy requiring protection. The others include South Narrabeen Surf Club, a number of road ends and Council reserves.

Works such as these improve public access and will make the area safer during storms. We also expect lower clean-up costs after future storm events.

The timing and final detailed design for works on the remaining road ends and reserves depends in part on residents having completed their own protection works (as the two works need to integrate with each other). Council is working closely with residents to achieve this.

Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach Timeline

A timeline view of the weather events and subsequent actions taken