The Sydney Coastal Councils Group Inc. (SCCG) was established in 1989 to promote co-ordination between Member Councils on environmental issues relating to the sustainable management of the urban coastal environment. The Group consists of 15 Councils adjacent to Sydney marine and estuarine environments and associated waterways, and represents over 1.4 million Sydneysiders.
MATTERS OF INTEREST
Launch of ‘A Guide to Monitoring and Evaluating Coastal Adaptation’ (2nd edition)
Earlier this year, we got together with our research partners from the University of the Sunshine Coast and five coastal councils (Bega Valley, Leichhardt, Rockdale, Sunshine Coast and Sutherland) to trial our 2012 publication A Guide to Monitoring and Evaluating Coastal Adaptation. The trial sought to evaluate the use and utility of the Guide and the templates therein and identify opportunities to enhance it based on Councils’ experience.
As an outcome of the trial and thanks to the contributions of the Councils that participated, we have developed a 2nd edition of the Guide, which is now available online.
The Guide provides a framework for monitoring and evaluating the climate change adaptation strategies and practices of Local Government in coastal areas. Local Government is at the forefront of adaptation to climate change. As Councils continue to develop adaptation plans and related strategies, there is a need for guidance to promote consistency and best practice across the sector. Through projects such as this we hope to deliver the tools and support needed by Councils to achieve that.
For more information, click here.
NSW POLICY AND LAW REFORM
Review into new laws on clearing in bushfire prone areas
Less than 2 months after its introduction, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) has announced changes and a review into the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice. The Code of Practice allows people who live in designated ‘10/50 vegetation clearing entitlement areas' to clear trees on their property within 10 metres of a home without seeking approval, and clear underlying vegetation (such as shrubs) within 50 metres of a home without seeking approval. Read more about the new code of practice on the NSW Rural Fire Service website.
Since the introduction of the Code on 1 August 2014, there have been significant concerns raised by a number of councils and community groups, relating to threatened species and ecological communities, inadequate consultation, lack of distinction between urban and bush land areas, and monitoring and compliance issues. In light of these concerns, at our AGM on 13 September 2014, the SCCG Full Group Committee resolved to write to the NSW Government seeking an immediate suspension of the Code and an urgent and independent review. Since then, the RFS has announced changes to the Code and a review. Submissions can be made by email to firstname.lastname@example.org until 14 November 2014.
The NSW Parliamentary Research Service has prepared an e-brief which explains the current NSW regulatory regime, summarises the new changes and canvasses some stakeholder responses to the proposed reforms. It also examines the related Victorian regulatory scheme. Click here to access the e-brief.
Commonwealth Marine Reserves Review
The Commonwealth Government has set aside a suite of an Expert Scientific Panel will review the science supporting the current Commonwealth Marine Reserves recently developed management plans for Australia’s marine reserves. The plans were due to come into effect in July 2014, but instead will be replaced by a new set of plans following a Marine Reserves Review currently underway. The Government states it is delivering on its election commitment for a ‘More Competitive and Sustainable Fisheries Sector’. The Review has two related streams:
Terms of reference for the review have been released:
There will be an opportunity for written submissions and participation in an online survey as part of the review. More information on the review is available here. You can also subscribe to updates on the review’s progress here.
Stage 2 Coastal Reforms
The NSW Government is looking to strengthen support for councils’ coastal management through the stage 2 reforms. The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) would like to work with councils to develop improved guidance material to better support council decision making. It is envisaged that the improved guidance will consolidate existing coastal guidance and fill information gaps that currently exist. It will build on good practice already adopted by many councils. The guidance will provide government direction to support council coastal management decision-making.
Staff from OEH working on the reforms met with SCCG and Sydney Councils on 10 September to discuss the best way to work together to develop new coastal management guidance. The meeting was very productive and generated many useful ideas about how OEH could better support councils. OEH plans to hold workshops to define and scope the new guidance with councils and other NSW Government agency staff in November and December. For more information visit the OEH website.
Seawall at Old Bar rejected
The NSW Government has agreed to certify the Greater Taree Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) prepared by council, subject to minor amendments, but has not supported construction of a seawall at Old Bar. The seawall was estimated to cost $50 million with a lifespan of 50 years. The NSW Environment Minister, the Hon Rob Stokes MP, noted that “the option to construct any protection structure at Old Bar is likely to transfer the problem to future generations to deal with, which is unacceptable.” Greater Taree City Council will now work with OEH to consider options to relocate development that is exposed to coastal erosion. To read the associated media release, click here.
The Climate Council has released a report on climate change and coastal flooding. The report finds that Australia is highly vulnerable to increasing coastal flooding due to extensive development. Climate change will exacerbate coastal flooding and put many natural and built assets at risk. The authors calculate that $2.26 billion worth of infrastructure and homes would be at risk under a scenario of 1.1m sea level rise. The authors call for urgent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions this decade and beyond to avoid the most serious risks from rising sea levels and coastal flooding. More information can be found on the Council’s website.
The NSW Government is currently reviewing Biodiversity legislation in NSW. An independent panel has been appointed to consider the policy settings, programs and funding arrangements that support the management of biodiversity, threatened species and native vegetation in the State. The review aims to establish simpler, streamlined and more effective legislation that will:
An Issues Paper was released for consultation in August and September. An Interim Report is due to be delivered to the Minister in October, with the Final Report completed by 18 December 2014. For more information, click here.
More information on recent policy and law reforms is available in the latest edition of our quarterly newsletter, Coastal Currents.
Sydney’s Salty Communities – Turning the Tide on Blue+Green Carbon
We have issued a Request for Quotations for a Coastal Biodiversity Literature, Data and Practice Review. We are also finalising the formation of the project’s independent Reference Group. This group of eminent individuals will provide specialist technical input, guide and/or undertake research, review prioritisation and evaluate sub-projects under the devolved grants program. Members of the Reference Group have expertise in Sydney’s coastal ecosystems, ecological restoration, urban biodiversity and organisational capacity-building and will provide help to achieve project outcomes.
We are also developing the process for assessing project proposals for Salty devolved grants. Funding will be available to fill research and policy gaps, provide key resources and to primarily undertake on-ground planting, weed control and rehabilitation of remnant coastal vegetation communities and key habitats across Sydney. Head to the project web page for more information.
Emergency Risk Management: A Health Check for Local Government
On 17 September, we hosted a forum on Emergency Management Planning in Local Government. The event provided an opportunity to showcase the outcomes from our project Emergency Management Planning: Piloting a Health Check for Local Government, which is approaching completion. There were presentations by Mr Phil Koperberg AO AFSM BEM and practitioners from local government with experience in improving capability and resilience in their organisations and communities. The speakers and supporting panellists engaged participants in a Q&A session to pursue key issues in more depth.
The council results from the Health Check evaluation show considerable variation across the seven priorities of the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience, which we used to structure the Health Check. The variation identifies different commitments both to different priorities, and between goals within priorities. These differences can reflect different needs and resourcing between councils. Councils can identify opportunities for cost effective opportunities for improved emergency management outcomes based on these results.
Feedback from the extended trial with 30 city and regional councils informed significant improvements to the Health Check. The new format simplifies the assessment by focusing on the higher level “goals” and uses a number of “prompts” to inform the goal and to provide advice on good practice approaches. A completely new user interface provides a simpler format and more review and reporting functions.
The Health Check provides a way forward for improved emergency management through good practice, as it applies to each council, rather than an audit. The new format encourages users to record current and future possible actions to inform both the evaluation and as a path forward for improved emergency management planning. Click here for more information.
Sydney Harbour Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) Scoping Study
On 16 April 2014 the Project consultant, GHD Pty. Limited, conducted a stakeholder workshop to capture the knowledge and expertise of stakeholders pertaining to Sydney Harbour. Input was sought on the priority issues that should be addressed and managed on a whole-of-system basis when dealing with coastal zone management for Sydney Harbour.
A key deliverable for the consultant is to investigate, evaluate and synthesise in a report literature and data related to management and use of the Harbour. The Project Advisory Committee and a stakeholder survey assisted to populate the literature evaluated. The consultant has completed a draft of the Literature Review which was sent to the Advisory Committee for review and comment. The consultant is now addressing those comments and the final Literature Review will be available shortly.
For more information on the project, click here.
25th Anniversary Landcare Grants 2014-15
Applications for the 25th Anniversary Landcare Grants 2014-15 are now open. The funding comprises up to $2.5 million for environment focused projects and up to $2.5 million for agriculture focused projects. Grants of between $5,000 and $20,000 will assist community groups and individuals to undertake projects to conserve and protect their local environment and/or to manage the natural resource base, contributing to outcomes in the national interest. Applications are invited until 2pm Monday 20 October 2014. Click here for more information.
20 Million Trees Programme
The 20 Million Trees Programme is part of the National Landcare Programme. Applications for grant funding between $20,000 and $100,000 will be accepted from eligible groups, individuals and organisations that intend to plant native trees and associated understorey in a range of urban, peri-urban and regional environments across Australia. Tree plantings may occur on public or private land. Applications close 2pm Thursday 30 October. Click here for more information.
The NSW Government invites applications to its Metropolitan Greenspace Program, a grants funding program for planning and improvement of regional open space in the greater metropolitan Sydney region. Applications are invited for capital works and planning projects, including walking tracks, bushland restoration, cultural heritage studies, and conservation management plans, until Friday 31 October 2014. Click here for more information.
National Environmental Science Programme (NESP)
The NESP supports applied environmental science, particularly focused on biodiversity and climate systems research. The NESP is an ongoing program with funding of $25.5 million per year. Initial investments will be for up to six years from January 2015. Applications are invited for funding from groups of research institutions to form research hubs until 5 November 2014. Click here for more information.
23rd Annual NSW Coastal Conference, Ulladulla – 11-14 November 2014