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.
Award-winning projects on climate change in coastal areas
We recently received two awards for projects relating to climate change in coastal areas:
These awards are an Australian Government initiative sponsored by the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department, in conjunction with States and Territories. They recognise innovative practices and achievements across the nation that are making our communities safer, stronger, more resilient and better prepared to manage any emergency situation.
These awards, conferred by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, recognise those who are champions of practical and innovative ways to adapt to climate change.
We would like to extend thanks to our project partners and Member Councils for their contributions to these projects.
NSW POLICY AND LAW REFORM
IPCC Fifth Assessment Report Synthesis Report released
On 1 November, the IPCC released the Synthesis Report for its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on climate change. The Synthesis Report is based on the reports of the three Working Groups of the IPCC, including relevant Special Reports. It provides an integrated view of climate change as the final part of the AR5. The Report confirms findings from AR4 (conducted in 2007) and provides further evidence that climate change is affecting many natural and human systems. For more information, click here.
Wentworth Report: Healthy Environment and Productive Economy
The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists has released a report entitled ‘Blueprint for a Healthy Environment and a Productive Economy’. The report describes transformative, long-term economic and institutional reforms that the authors claim Australia must implement if it is to create a healthy environment with a productive economy. The reforms relate to land and water use planning, markets, conservation of natural capital, regional NRM and environmental accounts. For more information, click here.
Marine Estate Management Bill 2014 awaiting assent
The Marine Estate Management Bill 2014 has passed both houses of Parliament and is awaiting assent. The objects of the Bill are to provide for the management of the marine estate, consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development; facilitate economic, social, cultural, scientific and environmental opportunities; promote the coordination of functions by public authorities; and provide for a comprehensive, strategically managed system of marine parks and aquatic reserves.
A key element of the legislation is the development of a Marine Estate Management Strategy, which will establish ‘common principles and coordinated management while identifying priorities through a threat and risk assessment’. The Bill also provides for the establishment of two statutory advisory bodies, the Marine Estate Management Authority and the Marine Estate Expert Knowledge Panel, which have been operating on an administrative basis for the past year. The legislation will be jointly administered by the Minister for Primary Industries and the Minister for the Environment. For more information, click here.
Crown Lands amendment on public ownership of beaches and coastal lands
The NSW Government has postponed debate in the NSW Parliament on the Crown Lands Amendment (Public Ownership of Beaches and Coastal Lands) Bill 2014. According to the Minister for Natural Resources, Lands and Water, Kevin Humphries MP, the Bill is an attempt to reaffirm the “longstanding policy of successive NSW governments that beaches and important coastal areas should be retained in public ownership in perpetuity”. It comes following a recent Land and Environment Court decision to grant an Aboriginal land claim over an area of land known as ‘Red Rock’ on the NSW North Coast. The NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) opposes the Bill on the grounds that it undermines the objects and purposes of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act and is discriminatory in nature (read a copy of their submission here). In response to these concerns, the NSW Government has announced it will conduct further consultation with the NSWALC and other Aboriginal land councils on the issue. For more information, click here.
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 SCCG is preparing a submission to the review in consultation with Member Councils. The submission will soon be available from our website.
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 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.
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. 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 provided a broad discussion on prevention and preparation for emergencies.
The council results from the Health Check evaluation show considerable variation across the seven priorities of the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience, which is used to structure the Health Check. The variation identifies different commitments both to different priorities, and between goals within priorities. A review of the results provides Councils with the opportunity to identify cost effective opportunities for improved emergency management outcomes.
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. A final review to provide useful reporting functions for users in now being completed before release.
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. More information on the project is available here.
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.
Sydney Harbour Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) Scoping Study
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.
Growing Community Energy Grants
The NSW Minister for the Environment has announced the $700,000 Growing Community Energy grants program. Growing Community Energy will fund early stage development of community energy projects, to help create viable community-owned business models that can attract further investment. Applications are open until 12pm on 15 December 2014 for grants up to $70,000. More information about the Growing Community Energy program, webinar and grant applications is available on the OEH website.
Round Two of Funding for the Organics Infrastructure Program
The EPA and the Environmental Trust are calling for applications for funding for organics waste and recycling infrastructure. Round 2 of the $41 million Organics Infrastructure (large and small program) is open for applications for grants between $25,000 and $5 million to build or supply the infrastructure needed to divert food and garden organic waste from landfill. Applications are invited from local councils, industry, business and not-for profit organisations until 16 December 2014. Click here for more information.
23rd Annual NSW Coastal Conference, Ulladulla – 11-14 November 2014