Coastal expert Angus Gordon praises Great Lakes' pragmatic approach to climate change challenges

Main Beach, Forster. Photo courtesy of MidCoast Council.

Main Beach, Forster. Photo courtesy of MidCoast Council.

The case by case approach to either accept or protect assets along the Great Lakes’ coastline  has received the thumbs up from a coastal expert.

Former Chair of the government’s advisory NSW Coastal Council Angus Gordon said that the Coastal Zone Management Plan offered up by MidCoast Council (Great Lakes) seeks to identify what areas should be protected, what areas should be withdrawn and sacrificed.

“It’s the reasonable thing to do,” he said.

Fresh from a visit to Jimmy’s Beach to observe yet more sand being added to the banks, he said some areas are more obvious than others in what approach needs to be taken.

Jimmy's Beach in its current restored glory.

Jimmy's Beach in its current restored glory.

“Clearly you can’t withdraw from Main Beach,” he said.

“If you need to nourish it, do it.”

Other beaches needed to be considered as an infrastructure risk, depending on what water, sewerage and electricity assets exist in the area.

“Council’s plan says when we come to rebuild it, if it’s threatened they’ll move it inland.”

He followed up by commending the option to withdraw from some areas as a sensible policy.

“Some of the complexity of what they have done is adaptive to the different circumstances. Overall it’s very sensible and reflects understanding to appropriate solutions.”

He also approved of council’s recognition that some areas needed an adaptive approach.

“Monitor and wait, there’s no need to make decisions yet. It’s an adaptive approach.”

He said the new manual which will follow the state government’s Coastal Management State Environmental Planning Policy (the draft of which will be released for public review in upcoming months) will help identify what is at risk and how to manage it. 

“It doesn’t mean jumping in and putting it straight into an LEP,” he said, adding that many coastal councils, including the former Great Lakes Council, have fallen into this trap in the past. 

“Up and down the coast nearly all properties say you need a coastal engineer report.”

He clarified that the accepted climate change projections (which calculate sea rises of up to 90cm by 2100) are projections only, not actual predictions, which “causes a lot of problems.”

“We don’t actually know what going to happen. Remember that this is the upper limit, the upper percentile,” he said.

He said that risk management should be about looking at the type of development that’s proposed -something that has a 30 year economic life has a completely different criteria to a development with a 100 year life.

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