Old Bar Beach erosion: Planning for planned retreat

A SERIES of packages will be designed by the State government in consultation with Greater Taree City Council to "incentivise property owners to relocate" from property on the eastern side of Lewis Street in Old Bar as part the solution to coastal erosion.

A meeting will be held in "coming weeks" with directly affected property owners, according to council's executive leader corporate support, Laura Black and the announcement comes in the wake of a meeting last week with senior staff at Greater Taree City Council and the Department of Planning and Office of Environment and Heritage.

Ms Black described the meeting as "arduous" as senior staff worked to deal with the fallout of the decision of the minister for the environment, Rob Stokes to certify a coastal zone management plan that recommends a retreat policy for the whole of the Greater Taree coastline.

According to Ms Black, council staff were again advised at the meeting that "any funds made available from this point forward will be to support a retreat policy, and not protection measures."

The State government's stated retreat position and link to future funding contrasts with council's push to protect Old Bar with the construction of a rock revetment wall.

The wall is now off the table, as are any proposed protection measures, including the concept of an offshore reef as touted by the Old Bar Beach Sand Replenishment Group.

Ms Black said it was the intention of State government and council staff to "demonstrate the likely outcome and the look and feel of package content" to property owners in the area of "imminent threat, if not this storm season then in the not too distant future."

"We also want to ensure property owners understand the framework and the window of opportunity within which packages would be on offer.

"That is, the conditions under which an offer would be made and timing of those offers in the context of hazard triggers," Ms Black explained.

"However, because many of the options still require State investigation we will not be in a position to sign on the dotted line and agree to an outcome and I know that some are going to find that incredibly frustrating and stressful. I understand and respect that," she added.

Greater Taree City Council mayor Paul Hogan said council staff were "doing what they reasonably can in what can only be described as a stressful time for all."

"I know that they are communicating regularly with property owners about the status of the minister's announcement and progress toward the outcome the minister seeks," Mayor Hogan said.

"But at the end of the day, the decision to adopt a policy position for coastal management rests with me and my fellow councillors and once we adopt a position of retreat and once the minister certifies that position, it is what will be implemented.

"There will be no protection allowed by anyone and I want to see what a policy of retreat looks like and what it means to landowners in Old Bar before I make up my mind," he added.