A.D. Gordon, 2021. “The failure of NSW coastal management reform, 89(3), 46-54.
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The failure of NSW coastal management reform
A.D. Gordon OAM
Coastal Zone Management and Planning, North Narrabeen, NSW
In New South Wales (NSW), Australia, awareness of coastal erosion and shoreline recession had its genesis in the late 1920s when storms damaged houses at Collaroy one of Sydney’s northern beaches (Figure 1). At about the same time the Coogee “Fun” Pier, located on a southern Sydney beach and built between 1924 and 1928, was so damaged by wave attack that the remains had to be removed in 1934. Again in 1945 a new seawall at Cronulla, another southern Sydney beach, was damaged beyond repair and at the same time more houses were lost at Collaroy. This was followed in 1967, 1974, and 1978 by major erosion events that threatened both houses and high-rise buildings at Collaroy, resulted in the loss of houses at Bilgola, a northern Sydney beach and in 1978 the loss of houses at Wamberal, 46 km north of Sydney Harbour (Table 1). Unlike the United States of America (USA) where coastal management comes under both federal and state jurisdictions, in Australia it is the province of the governments of each of the states. The federal government does provide some aspirational guidance, but not significant legislative or financial support. There is also no equivalent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide project delivery services. In Australia, the states devolve delivery down to local councils through Acts of Parliament and formal policies that can also have legislative force. However, the failure of the State of NSW to provide all the legislative tools necessary to effectively manage coastal matters at a local council level results in coastal management being abdicated rather than delegated by the state, particularly in relation to private development.