An independent internal engineering review for the upgrade to Port Macquarie's Southern Breakwall will include the report by coastal engineer Angus Gordon.
Transport for NSW (TfNSW) will undertake the review of all reports on the project and said it's an "entirely normal process".
On the breakwall project website it states TfNSW is relying on two engineering reports conducted by Manly Hydraulics and Royal Haskoning DHV.
"Both of which confirm the need to remediate and repair the Southern Breakwall," the latest project update reads.
In a correspondence with Port Macquarie-Hastings Mayor and Nationals candidate for the seat of Port Macquarie Peta Pinson, executive director of NSW Maritime Mark Hutchings confirmed TfNSW has engaged an expert marine engineering firm to "undertake a full review of all reports" relating to the breakwall.
This process will also include reviewing the report by coastal engineer Angus Gordon.
In a statement to the Port News, TfNSW has also confirmed the Port Macquarie Breakwall Project will "go ahead as planned".
In a video posted to Cr Pinson's Facebook campaign page, she said she wrote to the secretary of TfNSW Rob Sharp on February 28.
"I wrote a letter letting him know about the report from Angus Gordon," she said.
Cr Pinson said she received a response from NSW Maritime executive director Mark Hutchings on March 15.
"The letter states that they're going to have an expert maritime engineering firm review the report by Angus Gordon, the Royal Haskoning report and the Manly Hydraulics report," she said.
"This is confirmation by TfNSW and NSW Maritime that the brakes are being placed on this project until this expert review has been done.
"This is probably the most significant development so far because we haven't been receiving positive responses from TfNSW."
The report released by Mr Gordon and the Save Our Breakwall group stated that a development application (DA) would be required for anything other than routine maintenance as per the Coastal Act and associated planning policy.
It said based on inspections and available information, it would seem the breakwall is in reasonable condition, but in need of some targeted repairs. The report does not support a major upgrade.
A spokesperson from TfNSW said the Maritime Infrastructure Delivery Office (MIDO) is currently assessing all tender responses for the project.
"The MIDO is conducting an independent internal engineering review for the project. This is an entirely normal process," the spokesperson said.
"Importantly, two engineering reports have already been commissioned and confirm the need to repair the Southern Breakwall. The engineering reports were conducted by Manly Hydraulics and Royal Haskoning DHV."
The spokesperson also confirmed the independent internal engineering review and the breakwall project process will proceed concurrently.
"There is no pause in the Breakwall Project process," they said
"The Port Macquarie Breakwall Project will go ahead as planned."
Save Our Breakwall spokesperson Damian King said TfNSW undertaking a review of all of the reports "definitely shows acknowledgement".
"Hopefully they look at Angus Gordon's report, because I think if they do they will realise they have made a mistake," he said.
"Traditional repairs should be the only option, especially when the breakwall has got this much cultural significance."
Mr King said the group are now awaiting the TfNSW response to the internal development reviews.
"Potentially the next step for us would be putting injunctions on contractors because [TfNSW] do need a DA to upgrade this breakwall as per the legislation," he said.
The TfNSW spokesperson said "development consent from council is not required" for the project.
In a statement provided by TfNSW to the Port News detailing why the project doesn't need a DA to proceed, it states:
"State Environmental Planning Policy (Transport and Infrastructure) 2021. This SEPP aims to facilitate the effective delivery of infrastructure across the state.
"The proposal would involve upgrades to the Port Macquarie southern breakwall, which is a type of 'navigation and emergency response facility' as per the definition provided by clause 2.77 of the SEPP. The following clauses are applicable to the proposed works:
- Clause 2.79(2)(a) of the SEPP provides that development for the purposes of 'navigation and emergency response facilities' carried out by or on behalf of a public authority, is permitted without consent on any land. The proposed upgrade of the existing southern breakwall is permitted without consent pursuant to this clause.
- Clause 2.73(2)(c) provides that development for any purpose may be carried out without consent on Crown managed land, by or on behalf of a Crown land manager of the land if the development is for the purpose of implementing an adopted plan of management in relation to Crown managed land managed by a Council. The proposed footpath upgrade would be undertaken on Crown land 14 managed by Port Macquarie-Hastings Council.
"As detailed above, the footpath upgrades would align with the strategic objectives contained within the Hastings Regional Crown Reserve - Precinct A Plan of Management.
"The proposal can be assessed under Division 5.1 of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 (the Act).
"Development consent from council is not required.
"Features such as the proposed establishment of a temporary construction compound and stockpile site is considered ancillary and incidental to the proposal and therefore, is also permitted without consent."
Mr Gordon, in response to TfNSW's reasoning for not requiring a DA to undertake the upgrade, said it is required.
"This part of the Planning Legislation has been in place for more than a decade and was intended to facilitate State Government and Local Councils undertake works without requiring a DA, including navigation and emergency response facilities," he said.
"However, as part of the NSW Government's Coastal Reform Package this provision was limited to repair and routine maintenance whereas significant upgrades do require a DA if there is not a certified Coastal Management Program in place."
"It appears TfNSW is saying that the work on the Southern breakwater is necessary for navigation reasons as there is no emergency response facilities involved in the proposed works. The problem with this is that TfNSW's own consultant, MHL, made it clear that the Northern breakwater was in a far worse state than the Southern.
"Logically the priority for providing the safest navigation is clearly repair of the Northern, not the Southern breakwater."
Councillors debate breakwall project
At this month's Ordinary Council Meeting on March 16, Cr Pinson moved a mayoral minute to note the report by Mr Gordon, his response in relation to TfNSW's statement that a DA is not required to proceed with the project and the correspondence from NSW Maritime executive director Mark Hutchings.
"If there are any issues identified, we will be notified as councillors," Cr Pinson said.
"These [documents] are for noting so the public can have access to them as well."
Councillor Rachel Sheppard moved an amended motion to defer consideration of tabling the report and correspondences until next month's council meeting.
"I don't think it's reasonable on the night before a council meeting, that councillors be expected to thoroughly engage with this material," she said.
"The mayoral minute is typically used for items that are of such urgency that they can't be left until the next meeting and in this case I don't think it meets that criteria."
Councillors discussed the motion before voting to defer consideration until the April council meeting.
Councillors Rachel Sheppard, Lisa Intemann, Nik Lipovac, Lauren Edwards and Sharon Griffiths voted in favour of deferring consideration, while councillors Josh Slade, Danielle Maltman, Adam Roberts and Peta Pinson voted against.
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