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NSW Coastline Management Manual

New South Wales Government
September 1990

ISBN 0730575063

Section 4: Administration

City, Municipal and Shire Councils are usually the planning and consent authorities responsible for the management of coastal lands. However, State Government Departments and Authorities, the Commonwealth Government, the Land and Environment Court, property developers and the community all have roles in the management of the coastline. These roles and responsibilities are briefly discussed below.


Within the requirements laid down from time to time by the State Government, a council is responsible for the planning and management of land in its own area, including land subject to coastline hazards.

4.1.1 General Responsibilities

(a) Coastline Management Plan

As part of its normal planning responsibilities, any council with land subject to coastline hazards should plan and manage that land in accordance with its hazard susceptibility. This is most effectively done through the preparation of a coastline management plan. Whilst such plans have no formal status under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, they are a statement of council policy regarding the type, nature and management of the coastline. Implementation may be by way of incorporation of certain elements into a statutory plan, by the construction of protective works, by implementation of dune management measures, or by the application of development conditions. Coastline management plans are discussed in Section 3.6.

(b) Coastline Hazard Mitigation

Councils are responsible for the investigation, design, construction and maintenance of works and measures to mitigate coastline hazards. To this end, the State Government will provide financial assistance under a program administered by the Public Works Department. (See Section 4.7.1.).

(c) Hazard Awareness

In an attempt to reduce the social disruption and damage caused by coastline hazards, councils should promote hazard awareness in their community. This can be done by supplying information and advice to property owners, residents, visitors, potential purchasers and investors. Council, after discussion with the State Emergency Services, should also promote awareness of any warning systems or evacuation procedures deemed necessary. In recognition of the turnover in residents, such information should be provided on a regular basis.

(d) Beach Management

The beaches of the State are usually public reserves and provide important recreational amenity to the community. The care, control and management of these beaches is usually vested in the local council. It is a council responsibility to improve and maintain beaches and their amenity. Advice on beach and dune management is available from the Soil Conservation Service and from the Public Works Department. Financial assistance for beach improvement is available through programs administered by the Public Works Department and the Department of Sport and Recreation.

4.1.2 Responsibilities Under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act

(a) General

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979 provides the framework for regulating development and protecting the environment in New South Wales. It has the object of encouraging:

Where a local planning instrument prepared under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act requires consent for a use and development of land, a proposal under the Coastline Hazards Policy would fall under Part IV of the Act, (see (d) Development Applications below). In other cases, Part V would apply (see (b) Environmental Impact Assessment below).

(b) Environmental Impact Assessment

The Coastline Hazard Policy is relevant to decisions made under Part V of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, which deals with environmental impacts. Councils are therefore encouraged to establish formal procedures to ensure that:

Where a council decides that a proposed activity is likely to significantly affect the environment, approval cannot be given and the activity cannot be carried out until an Environmental Impact Statement has been prepared, exhibited and considered.

(c) Planning Instruments

The Coastline Hazard Policy will be most effective where new Local Environmental Plans and Development Control Plans are prepared in accordance with the Policy. Councils are therefore encouraged to achieve this position for all coastal lands.

(d) Development Applications

Permissible developments and the need or otherwise for council consent are usually specified by a Local Environmental Plan. In some circumstances, land uses specified in a Local Environmental Plan may be expanded or restricted by various State Environmental Planning Policies and Regional Environmental Plans, or by Development Control Plans (see Appendix D2).

When considering development applications, councils must have regard to matters set out in Section 90 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. These include the provisions of any environmental planning instrument or draft instrument, including a Draft State Policy or Regional Plan. Particular subsections of relevance are listed in Appendices D2 and Appendices D4.

In some cases development applications may not be required and the first approach to council is a building application. Section 313 of the Local Government Act requires a council to consider a range of issues and is wide enough to encompass all matters set out in Section 90 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.

If a proposal involves beneficial use of extracted material (sand, rock etc.) and requires development consent it would be "designated development" and the development application must be accompanied by an Environmental Impact Statement.

(e) Section 149 Certificates

Schedule 2 of the Regulations of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act lists prescribed matters to be included in a certificate issued pursuant to Section 149 (2) of the Act. Of particular relevance to coastline management are:


In broad terms the State's role in coastline hazard management involves:

The Public Works Department, the Soil Conservation Service, the Department of Planning and the State Emergency Service are the state authorities responsible for providing technical advice and information on coastal processes, hazards and hazard management to councils.

4.2.1 The Public Works Department

The Public Works Department is the state's authority on coastal engineering. Specifically, the Department:

4.2.2 The Soil Conservation Service

The Soil Conservation Service is the State's authority on soil and land resource management. The Service has a major role to play in the coastal zone of New South Wales because of its responsibilities under the Soil Conservation Act. The Service has extensive coastal dune management experience and expertise. Specifically the Service:

Detailed information on dune management techniques is provided in the Soil Conservation Service's, "Coastal Dune Management" manual, (SCS, 1990.).

4.2.3 The Department of Planning

The Department of Planning is the State's authority on planning and environmental assessment matters and is responsible for administering the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, including the provision of advice on matters relevant to land subject to coastline hazards. Specifically the Department:

4.2.4 The Department of Lands

The NSW Department of Lands has a key role to play in coastline management. This stems from the Department's statutory functions as owner, administrator and manager of public lands. Key facets of Departmental involvement include the following:

4.2.5 The State Emergency Service

The State Emergency Service is the State's authority on emergency and natural hazard contingency planning. The Service has specific responsibilities under the State Emergency Services and Civil Defence Act 1972, for the establishment of procedures to disseminate hazard warnings and for the preparation of evacuation plans.

4.2.6 The National Parks and Wildlife Service

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is the controlling authority for National Parks, State Recreation Areas and certain other reserves. These areas represent a significant proportion of coastal lands.

The Service carries out a range of management practices in respect of these areas including the preparation of plans of management. Authorities responsible for management and planning of areas adjacent to National Parks etc. should liaise with the Service in respect of potential impacts on those areas. Similarly, in carrying out its management functions, the Service should take account of the aspirations of those responsible for adjacent lands.

The Service also has responsibilities in respect to Aboriginal sites and wildlife outside of National Parks. The significance of Aboriginal sites needs to be recognised when considering works on the coastline. Development applications for coastal wetlands (SEPP 14) and littoral rainforests (SEPP 26) must be referred to the Director of the Service.

The Service possesses a body of knowledge and expertise which may be useful to those managing coastal lands.

4.2.7 The Minister for Public Works

The Minister for Public Works is responsible for the administration of Part III of the Coastal Protection Act, 1979. The Minister, under that part of the Act, may direct that, prior to approval by a consent authority, development applications of a certain class or within a certain area must be referred for his concurrence. Should concurrence not be given, the authority must refuse consent. Should the Minister apply conditions to his concurrence, the authority must apply these conditions to any consent granted.

It is proposed that only applications involving issues of State or Regional significance will require referral to the Minister for his concurrence.

A regulation has been made under the Coastal Protection Act which applies to those areas of the coastal zone which are not in a Local Government Area and which are not subject to an Environmental Plan. In essence, this regulation applies to that area from the shoreline to the three nautical mile limit. This regulation requires that the Minister's concurrence be granted before an authority's consent is given to a proposed development or before any person carries out any development or activity. Such activities include dredging, aggregate extraction, and the dumping of unwanted material or dredge spoil.

In implementing these provisions, the Minister must have regard to the likely effect of the development on coastal processes and the coastline, and the effect of these processes on the development.

4.2.8 The Department of Minerals and Energy

The Department is responsible for the administration of exploration and mining activities in the State under the Mining Act, 1973, and the Coal Mining Act, 1973.

Of these, the ones most likely to have impacts on the coastline are mining for heavy mineral sands and the offshore mining of heavy mineral sands and marine aggregate.

Under the conditions of exploration and mining titles the Department requires the proponent to undertake rehabilitation during and following exploration and mining activities. These take the form of Mining Rehabilitation and Environmental Management Plans which detail the proposed mining, monitoring and rehabilitation procedures to be implemented prior to, during and after mining. These are subject to annual review by the relevant government authorities.

Complementary to the Management Plan is the Department's Rehabilitation Policy which outlines principles to be applied, methods to be used, and standards to be achieved in the rehabilitation of land to a permanent and stable landform compatible with the surrounding land use.

The Department requires the lodgement of a security bond to be used in the rehabilitation of a site in the event of default by the mining company.

The Department is heavily involved in the rehabilitation of derelict mined land and carries out investigations to enable full assessment of environmental problems.

In addition, the Department, through the NSW Geological Survey, collects and interprets data on the geology of the State. The Department is also able to provide advice on coastal and marine geology and sedimentology and coastal geomorphology.

4.2.9 The State Pollution Control Commission

The SPCC is responsible for ensuring that all practical measures are taken to protect the environment and for coordinating the activities of public authorities in respect of those measures. Works likely to affect the storage, treatment or disposal of pollutants require a pollution control approval, and all discharges will need to be licensed by the SPCC.

Detailed information on approvals and licensing is provided in the Commission's "Pollution Control Approval and Licensing of Developments or Works", (SPCC, 1989).

4.2.10 The Coastal Committee of NSW

The Coastal Protection Act, 1979, established the Coastal Council of NSW. The Council comprised representatives of a range of Government agencies, persons with expertise in coastal management and a representative of local government. The functions of the Council are to advise the Minister for Planning on matters relating to coastal management and to coordinate the activities of the agencies with functions in the coastal area.

The Government wishes to expand the representation of local government and provide representation of the environmental movement on the Council. This requires amendment of the Act.

To give effect to its wishes more quickly, the Coastal Committee of NSW was established under Section 22 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. The composition of this Committee reflects the Government's proposal for the Council and includes three representatives of local government and a representative of the Nature Conservation Council.

There is no barrier to a particular local government council seeking and receiving advice on coastal management issues from the Committee nor to a council seeking its assistance in issues of coordination between agencies.

4.2.11 Universities

The various Universities in NSW have been active in the collection of data and the carrying out of research on coastal processes along the NSW coast. The results of the research are widely published in Australia and overseas. The data can usually be made available for analysis in the context of a particular coastal investigation. The two organisations responsible for the bulk of the work in this area are the Coastal Studies Unit of the University of Sydney, and the Water Research Laboratory of the University of NSW The nature and extent of the work carried out can be obtained from publications such as Annual Reports.

4.2.12 Other Government Authorities

All government authorities concerned with the use and development of lands subject to coastline hazards must:

The advice of the Public Works Department should be sought with respect to coastline hazards, the Department of Planning in relation to planning and environmental considerations, the Soil Conservation Service in relation to coastal dune management and the State Emergency Service with respect to emergency procedures.

The principles and guidelines described in this manual should be used in decision making.


The Commonwealth Government is responsible for the collection and forecasting of meteorological data and the administration of certain Acts which control activities in the coastal area.

The Bureau of Meteorology collects atmospheric pressure and wind data and prepares synoptic weather maps which may be used in the investigation of design parameters for coastal works. The Bureau also issues weather forecasts which include cyclone and storm warnings for coastal waters.

An Act administered by the Commonwealth controls the dumping of material at sea. Commonwealth Authorities may also be involved in the construction of works and facilities in the coastal zone.

Various Commonwealth Government Committees investigate aspects of Coastal Management from time to time. To date no assistance, either of a management or financial nature, has been made available by the Commonwealth to State or Local Governments.


The Land and Environment Court is the arbiter between councils, objectors and applicants in disputes over building and development applications. In these matters the Court will have access to the State's specialist technical advice through expert witnesses.

When based on "duty of care" considerations, claims by victims of coastline hazard events would be dealt with in the Supreme Court. Here again, the State will be a source of engineering and planning advice as well as coastal data.


Developers of land likely to be subject to coastline hazards are required to satisfy consent authorities that any development will not affect or be affected by coastline processes, or that appropriate measures are included for the mitigation and management of coastline hazards.

Developers are responsible for the carrying out of any investigations that may be required. The Public Works Department and/or the Department of Planning will provide advice to the local council on the extent of data available, the additional data required, and the nature and scope of investigation considered appropriate to satisfy the consent authority.


The State's coastline is a priceless community asset. Many sections of the community have a legitimate interest in the management of the coastline, whether or not they are directly affected by coastline hazards and whether or not they live nearby or are potential visitors.

Any proposals for coastline management should therefore allow the community access to information and provide for community participation and comment.

The ultimate responsibility to make a final determination based on the issues and submissions remains with the planning or consent authority.


4.7.1 Finance

The State Government will make financial assistance available to councils under the Coastline Hazard Program. The level of assistance is 50% of the cost of projects and works.

Projects which are eligible for assistance fall into the following categories:

In respect of proposed studies in particular, the views and comments of various state agencies should be sought at the earliest possible stage to ensure the most satisfactory progress towards a final proposal.

Projects which councils wish to have considered for financial assistance should be submitted in the first instance to the appropriate Regional Office of the Public Works Department. Offers of grants will be made by the Minister on the basis of available funds and statewide priorities.

In respect of projects involving structural works, councils will be responsible for certifying that all necessary environmental assessment and review processes have been undertaken.

Government assistance is not available for works made necessary by any new development. Under these circumstance, the developer and/or the consent authority are responsible for the cost of any hazard management measures.

Various state agencies have their own practices with respect to charges for recovery of costs of advice and services provided. This Policy does not infer the waiving of charges by individual agencies. Any such costs incurred by a council would be eligible for financial assistance as part of the total cost of an approved project.

4.7.2 Conditions for Grants

General conditions relating to grants made available to councils under the Coastline Hazard Program will typically be as follows:

1. Proposals associated with the preparation of hazard definition or coastline management studies should clearly identify:

2. Proposals for implementing works and measures will need to:

3. Investigations and studies must be undertaken in accordance with approved briefs.

4. Works must be completed in accordance with approved plans.

5. Works must be commenced within a specified period.

6. Prior approval is required to vary the conditions of the grant, e.g. additions or extensions to studies, investigations, works, activities (such as public awareness campaigns), etc.

7. Where appropriate, works must be designed on the basis of technical standards acceptable to the Public Works Department the Soil Conservation Service, or other relevant agencies.

8. During the progress of the works, council must provide regular itemised Certificates of Expenditures (in approved format) at intervals nominated for that grant. Progress payments, particularly in the early stages of the project, may be made on the basis of valuations made by the Department or the Service.

9. Councils will be expected to observe cash flow/rate of expenditure requirements.

10. Councils will be expected to complete work within the approved estimated cost, and the grant amount will be based on that approved cost.

11. Councils' costs chargeable against approved subsidised programs are as follows:

When implementing voluntary purchase schemes, specific conditions apply. The Public Works Department will provide details of these conditions.

4.7.3 Income Generation for Management Works on Crown Land

One of the key issues facing coastal land managers is the availability and sustainability of funds to undertake works. Sources of funds include the re-investment of revenue obtained from developments on Crown Lands. This source is discussed in detail below.

The Crowns Lands Act, 1989, places the Department of Lands, in association with Local Government, in an excellent position to generate funds by way of joint venture projects with the private sector, (e.g. tourist resorts, marinas, caravan parks, kiosks, extraction royalties), and the reinvestment of these funds in land management works via the Department's Public Reserves Management Fund. This places the Department in a lead position as the State's major multiple land use agency and helps provide Local Government with the means to implement coastal management plans.

Section 106 of the Crown Lands Act, 1989, provides the statutory basis for the allocation of any revenue gained by a Trust such as Local Government. Briefly, any revenue (by sale, lease or licence) by a Reserve Trust shall be allocated according to directions from the Minister. Directions by the Minister may include:

Such Ministerial directions could be by way of a plan of management adopted under the Crown Lands Act, 1989, and supplementary financial plans.

Coastline management plans prepared by Local Government may be appropriate for adoption under the Crown Lands Act, 1989 as they affect and specify tenure and management arrangements for Crown Lands.. Liaison with the Department of Lands is recommended with a view to establishing appropriate administrative arrangements for plan adoption, to compiling financial plans for the allocation of revenue and to identify any further opportunities for joint venture developments.