A tidal pool for Port Macquarie is gaining traction as a major issue in the September local government election.
Mayoral candidate Peta Pinson has weighed into the discussion suggesting that council has the ability to rezone the proposed site at Flynns Beach.
“Port Macquarie Hastings Council can rezone the site to an RE1 (Public Recreation) Zone,” she said.
“Or council can consent for the tidal pool to go ahead on an E2 (Environmental Conservation) zoned site with a clause stating that although this land is zoned E2 it has been approved by Port Macquarie Hastings Council for the unique purposes of a tidal pool only.”
Ms Pinson said she had received advice from NSW Planning and Environment Department in relation to council’s LEP policy and ‘the inferred impediments that that Environmental Conservation Zone known as E2 had on the prospects of a tidal pool’.
”Such an amendment was recently made to Council’s E2 Zoned land within the Mill Hill subdivision, Innes Peninsula, Port Macquarie at a Council meeting in June 2016,” she said.
Ms Pinson said with a high level of support and demonstrated needs, the newly elected council should consider the rezoning options available to them and investigate the viability of the project.
But mayor Peter Besseling said any rezoning is required to be supported by a raft of studies and documentation.
“The rezoning process and supporting studies would be a costly process with no guarantee of success. State government agencies with a role in the management of the coast may object to the rezoning,” he said.
“Even if the LEP was amended to allow for a tidal pool as a permissible use, a development application (and detailed supporting studies) would be required to assess the proposal and this process is also quite uncertain given the complex issues associated with this type of development in the coastal zone.”
The mayor said there were enormous impediments, aside from any costs and maintenance associated with the development.
“There would be significant time, effort and costs associated involved with just getting this project to the point of submitting a DA,” he said.
The mayor said issues relevant to a development application include the Department of Primary Industries - Crown Lands providing owner's consent to the lodgement of a development application,
The development would be classed as integrated development because it would require approval under the Fisheries Management Act - provisions relating to approvals for dredging/reclamation and protecting marine habitat would be triggered.
The development would be classed as significant coastal development under State Environmental Planning Policy 71 - Coastal Protection, and a development application would require the concurrence of the Director General of the Department of Planning & Environment
The Statement of Environmental Effects for such a proposal would need to include a range of studies, most notably; marine flora and fauna assessments, assessment of the impact of the proposal on coastal processes, assessment of the impact of the development on the geological significance of the Port Macquarie escarpment, impact of tidal pool maintenance on coastal processes and the local marine environment, traffic and parking impact and need for additional public amenities.
One resident watching the matter unfold is Kathryn Butler who has championed the tidal pool idea in Port Macquarie for several years.
“It was always going to be a bit of a political issue … always tossed around,” she said.
“At the end of the day, even if nothing comes from this latest enlightenment, (I support) whatever it takes to get this issue over the line.”
Ms Butler said her group was still closely watching a similar project at Ballina.
“If the project at Ballina could get up, it would be a huge boost for our project in Port Macquarie,” she added.