PORT Macquarie MP Leslie Williams is disappointed council is still no closer to a solution on coastal erosion issues at Lake Cathie, despite the fact it has applied to the state government to fully fund a revetment wall.
At April's ordinary council meeting, councillors reviewed feedback on funding the Illaroo Road revetment wall project and agreed a report will be prepared to determine other options available for coastal protection before going back to the community to seek a preferred action.
The CEO, Dr Clare Allen, will also approach Mrs Williams to discuss progress to date and the availability of government funding for coastal protection works.
This decision comes after council put a beneficiary-pays funding option to residents proposing they fund 80 per cent of the cost of the revetment wall, despite the fact council owns 60 per cent of the public assets along the coastal zone.
Mrs Williams attended the community meeting in March with residents and council staff, and said it is time to shelve the beneficiary pays funding option put forward in Marsden Jacob's cost benefit analysis, and seek alternative funding solutions.
The revetment wall would provide protection to 41 properties as well as public assets managed by council.
The cost benefit analysis 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 were up to $1 million.
Council reported that community meetings and feedback submissions on the cost benefit analysis report showed there was a strong rejection of the beneficiary pays option for a revetment wall; there is no capacity and willingness to pay by directly impacted residents; and concerns were raised regarding the revetment wall option, including the high cost, inclusion of public amenities in the design, visual impact, loss of beach and potential end effects and erosion at the extremities.
Mayor Peta Pinson unsuccessfully pushed for further engagement with residents about their priorities for coastal protection and if they in fact want a revetment wall at all.
Cr Pinson said the Illaroo Road coastal erosion problem has been "a proverbial bouncing ball".
The Illaroo Road revetment wall is the key action item from the Lake Cathie
Coastal Zone Management Plan initiated in 2007 and adopted by council in 2013.
Council decided to proceed with the revetment wall in 2013, based on feedback
from submissions received during the Stage 2 Coastline Management Study undertaken in 2012.
During the study, 13 options for coastal erosion management were assessed and included actions from beach nourishment to an artificial reef and a planned retreat.
Residents agreed in 2012 that a revetment wall was their preferred option over the alternative of a "planned retreat" which would involve the voluntary purchase of their properties.
In 2013, the possibility of landowners contributing towards the cost of a revetment wall was proposed as a "last resort" in five funding scenarios which included financial support from state and federal governments. This funding model raised serious concerns among affected residents.
A revetment wall was costed in 2013 at $3 million. It is now estimated it will cost between $9 million and $11 million.
"Now time has moved forward. The community wants a solution. Are we confident the solution to erosion at Illaroo Road is in fact a rock revetment wall in 2021? I don't know that I'm convinced," Cr Pinson said.
"In order for us to make decisions on behalf of the community we need to go back to them and be clear, and ask them to be clear too, on what it is they want and don't want," Cr Pinson said.
Cr Pinson said it is evident residents are not happy with the beneficiary pays option. She even described it as "totally preposterous".
She said more community consultation is not delaying the process any further, but quantifying action and determining if a revetment wall is in fact the option residents want.
The report to the April council meeting suggested "it would appear that the overwhelming community endorsement of the revetment
wall as the preferred option in 2013 has now waned and there may be a willingness to explore
short-term and long-term hazard mitigation options through the Coastal Management Plan process
Mrs Williams questioned how much more consultation is required on the issue before council makes a decision and takes action.
"Oddly, council has decided to continue the procrastination over the revetment wall for Illaroo Road and yet concurrently has applied for state/federal government funding for the entire cost of the project," Mrs Williams said.
Mrs Williams understands council has applied for $11 million through the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund. Those applications are now being assessed.
Council indicated in a revetment wall fact sheet provided to residents that the outcome of their funding application is likely to be known by June 2021.
"So if they are potentially going to abandon the proposal for a revetment wall, why are they applying for funding, and further, if they are successful with their application, do they plan to return the money to the government?
"The Lake Cathie community has been incredibly patient waiting for council to progress this project and so it is understandable that after over a decade of discussion and debate, their tolerance has waned.
"The question now for council is why start the process of consultation all over again and ignore the views of the community and waste the hundreds of thousands of dollars already expended on the work undertaken on this issue?"
Cr Rob Turner said the mayor was putting the cart before the horse. He said clear short and long term options need to be determined first before council has any further discussions.
Dr Allen said council has also reviewed its beach nourishment practices.
"That is a really important piece of information to communicate back to residents," Dr Allen said.
"The residents want to know something is happening, that they are not left alone. It's not something we're ignoring, we are serious about keeping on top of this.
"There are different options and we do need to explore those. They could be more cost effective and could have greater benefit in our community."
She said council wants to work with Mrs Williams in arriving at a solution.
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