A PROPOSED funding model for the construction of a rock revetment wall at Illaroo Road, Lake Cathie has been described as "unprecedented" and "flawed" by Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams.
A 440 metre-long revetment wall with sand nourishment is Port Macquarie-Hastings Council's preferred option to deal with coastal erosion at Lake Cathie.
The revetment wall would provide protection to 41 properties as well as assets including roads and carparking, and water, sewerage and stormwater infrastructure.
Mrs Williams conveyed her concerns in Parliament on February 18 about recent council correspondence to residents which outlined a cost benefit analysis for the construction of the revetment wall.
Mrs Williams said individual residents on Illaroo Road, parts of Chepana Street, Bundella Avenue, Kywong Street and Kalang Street were provided with detailed information about the proposed project and how it could be funded. This included specific details to some residents about the cost apportioned to their property and their willingness and capacity to pay for the project.
Those costs per property ranged up to $1 million, Mrs Williams said, and have caused "significant distress" for some residents.
An affected property owner told the Port News that residents were extremely disappointed in how long the cost benefit analysis had taken council to complete with no consultation with affected residents or the broader Lake Cathie community in that time.
I wonder whether the council genuinely expected that any resident was prepared to indicate that they either were willing or had capacity to payLeslie Williams MP
"We are unsure of council's intention here and can only hope that common sense prevails in council's engagement with affected residents and the Lake Cathie community going forward," the resident said.
No decision has been made on how the revetment wall will be funded.
There will be a meeting for the Lake Cathie community at Lake Cathie Bowling Club on Tuesday, February 23 from 5.30pm. RVSP is essential.
"I wonder whether the council genuinely expected that any resident was prepared to indicate that they either were willing or had capacity to pay," Mrs Williams told Parliament.
"Council already knew the answer, and in fact it acknowledged that in its fact sheet."
That fact sheet states: We are very much aware that there was limited support for property owners to fund the revetment wall as this was the overriding sentiment of the feedback received during the public exhibition phase of the Stage 2 Coastal Management Options Study.
The process that resulted in the coastal zone management plan (CZMP) and the proposal for a rock revetment wall for Illaroo Road began 14 years ago.
Mrs Williams said it is not surprising residents are both "frustrated and angry" that just 10 months from the CZMP's expiry date discussions are only now being had about how the proposed project could be funded.
"It is my strong view that the Marsden Jacob final report on the Illaroo Road revetment wall funding model is both limited and flawed," Mrs Williams said.
"Beginning with the limitations, it is not surprising that the question asked by residents and locals from Lake Cathie was: Why were there limited discussions around the consideration that council could fund the revetment either wholly or in part with the support of state government funding?"
Mrs Williams said a recommendation in November 2013 was made to council by the Hastings local government area Coast, Estuary and Floodplain Advisory Sub-Committee. She said it was agreed, by consensus, that the council would adopt the Lake Cathie Coastal Zone Management Plan; and, secondly, landowner funding contributions to the revetment wall would be considered only as a last resort in the event that sufficient project funding from council, state or federal governments was not available.
"It is a clear indication to me that from the outset council had no predisposition to contribute any significant funding to the revetment project, despite the fact that on 25 July 2012 in the CZMP, building a revetment combined with beach nourishment, was selected as council's preferred management option," Mrs Williams said.
"Despite the report identifying a number of funding options, the recommendation to council, and consequently the only one presented to the community, is based on a special rate variation where the public or council benefit (in building a revetment wall) is transferred to the property owners."
The suggestion, and I acknowledge that council has not yet made a decision, that property owners should pay for works in the public domain is unprecedented.Leslie Williams, MP
Mrs Williams said the Marsden Jacob report shows that the council owns 61 per cent of the protected assets in the project zone. The public assets impacted by coastal hazards are identified in the report as car parks, electricity assets, parks and reserves, roads, road reserves, sewers, stormwater and water mains.
"The cost of the revetment wall is expensive - over $10.8 million if constructed in 2020," Mrs Williams told Parliament.
"The estimated cost of the rock revetment wall was $4 million, but the council has informed the affected property owners that they may have to bear a significantly increased cost because the wall design now includes access stairs, an access ramp, footpaths, seating, lighting, car parking, a new kerb and gutter.
"Like the affected residents and the community, I am understandably baffled to comprehend how property owners are somehow responsible for the cost of those additions to the revetment wall. The additions are obviously to improve public access and amenity, to allow the public to enjoy the foreshore and surrounds, and are not installed solely for the private residents.
"The suggestion, and I acknowledge that council has not yet made a decision, that property owners should pay for works in the public domain is unprecedented."
Council director of development and environment Mel Watkins said the protection of properties from coastal erosion at Lake Cathie had been a project the council had been working on for an extended period of time with input from state government and relevant experts.
"This phase of a proposed revetment wall project involves engagement with the potentially impacted property owners to assist in their understanding of the project and the potential impacts on them," she said in the Port News on February 15.
"This engagement will assist council in determining future actions to address this significant issue for the Lake Cathie community."
Mrs Williams said the region's beach zones are highly valued and like the $2.5 million Flynns beach seawall works completed by council with joint funding from the state government in 2019, she would expect similar council investment in the Lake Cathie rock revetment wall to protect the area against coastal erosion and improve public access and amenity.
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