Under the Coastal Protection Act 1979, the NSW government requires all coastal councils to prepare Coastal Zone Management Plans. These plans propose management options to address risks from coastal hazards along the coastline within the Local Government Area. They also identify estimated coastal recession due to storm events and sea level rise, and possible management options that can address affected areas.
In 2008, Council first engaged coastal engineering consultants to study the hazards affecting the coastline of Old Bar from Wallabi Point in the south to the southern arm of the Manning River South Channel Entrance (Farquhar Inlet) in the north. This area had been more extensively and significantly impacted by coastal hazards in recent years. In particular, a number of coastal storms have affected the coastline at Lewis Street, Old Bar and beach erosion was threatening the beach development in that area. Because this report identified significant information gaps relating to coastal processes for the entire Local Government Area, the study area was extended to include 32 km of coastline between Black Head and Crowdy Head.
The first stage of this expanded volume of work was to prepare a Coastline Hazard Definition Study (2010) to identify the risks for the study area and then a Coastline Management Study (2010) that laid out management options for addressing the risks, including:
- Storm erosion
- Long term recession due to sediment loss and sea level rise
- Inundation due to wave run-up overtopping the dune system.
Both the Coastline Hazard Definition Study (2010) and Coastline Management Study (2010) were placed on public exhibition from October to November 2010 to get feedback from the community on the content of the studies and the management options proposed. Submissions were received and collated and the matter reported to Council in February 2011.
In the absence of significant funding commitments to implement any of the costly management options, Council at its February 2011 Ordinary Meeting, resolved to prepare the draft Coastal Zone Management Plan (2013) on the basis of ‘planned retreat’ being the preferred management response, with all other management options remaining in the event they could be funded by private landowners or other levels of government. As erosion continued at Old Bar Beach in particular, this effectively meant that the removal of property by order had become imminent. This work was completed in 2013, but public exhibition was delayed pending coastal planning reform outcomes until April 2014.
At the same time, consultants had also been commissioned to prepare an Emergency Action Plan (2011) that specifies the actions to be taken before, during and after a coastal erosion emergency by Council and the site-specific requirements for owner constructed emergency protection works.
Faced with continuing threat to property and in the absence of an endorsed position on coastal management, in 2012, a group of property owners lodged a development application to construct a sand filled geotextile container seawall on a stretch of sand in front of their properties in Lewis Street.
Following refusal of the application by the NSW Coastal Panel, Council and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage reached an agreement to work together with the affected landowners on a solution.
In September 2013, with funding from the State government, Council commissioned the Old Bar Coastal Protection Structure Design Investigation. The study would determine whether a suitable structure can be designed and constructed to protect private and public assets along Old Bar Beach from coastal erosion. The defined study area extends from the MidCoast Water exfiltration ponds in the south almost 2km to the Surf Life Saving Club at the main section of the beach.
At its Ordinary Meeting in December 2013, Council resolved that the rock revetment structure recommended by the study be included in the Coastal Zone Management Plan. To minimise cost and time associated with completing the work, it was agreed that an addendum to the original Plan and Hazard Definition Study would be completed for the identified study area.