COASTAL CONSERVATION

NATIONAL PARKS ASSOCIATION of NSW Inc.

POLICY NO. 9 November 1996

INTRODUCTION

In many respects, the coast is a nation’s greatest natural asset. The uniqueness of this meeting place of land and sea is accentuated by distinctive landforms, flora and fauna, combining to create scenic appeal and recreational opportunity not available elsewhere. The coast is also a centre linking various land and sea transport with commercial activities.

There are good reasons for a specifically coastal policy. The coast is essentially a linear entity, its narrowness emphasising its uniqueness, its preciousness to us, and also its vulnerability to broadscale modification such as clearing and urbanisation, and to attritional processes resulting from lack of proper controls over activities which have a severe environmental impact. The latter includes scattered and fragmenting development, pollution by farm and industrial chemicals, recurrent wildfires, terrestrial and aquatic weed infestation, and inappropriate or damaging forms of recreation. With its tidal ebb and flow, wind and saltwater spray, and the complex interactions of its flora and fauna in tune with these, the coast is also the most dynamic of environments. Its uniqueness emphasised by the above factors, the coast is truly deserving of its own policy.

Unfortunately, the natural integrity of the NSW coast has deteriorated markedly as a result of post-1788 human activity. Development has tended to remain largely ad hoc, not based on regional need but rather on schemes presented by developers. A succession of seminars, conferences, workshops, discussion papers etc. over several decades and even a NSW Government Coastal Policy (1991, revised 1995), have not yet resulted in adequate and permanent conservation of remaining natural areas. Planning instruments are subject to periodic change, and the "House Full" sign never goes up. The profit-driven development imperative, coupled with the sacred cow of private proprietorship and increasing population, ensures that there are political constraints on enlightened planning.

Notwithstanding these obstacles, preservation of the remaining naturalness of the NSW coast is essential, given the extent of existing development and the danger of its continuation, which would further fragment the coast as a natural entity. This is the basis of the ensuing policy.

The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) is a non-government organisation specialising in the advocacy of natural area reservation and management. For this reason, and because the leading broad-base environmental organisations have well-developed general policies on the coast, the Association has decided to restrict its area of concern to the reservation and management of the remaining substantially natural areas, including the declaration of any coastal areas identified by the NPWS as wilderness, for conservation and low intensity passive recreation purposes.

DEFINITIONS

For the purposes of this policy:

THE COAST means that land and water extending from mean low water level to the broad landward limits of aeolian (wind-blown) sand drift, estuarine tidal movement, and coastal wetlands, finally being delineated by lines drawn on a map connecting all such points.

The NPA believes that this landward boundary is the best compromise for a definition which is at once logical, practical in that it does not involve any more than consultation of existing physical maps and the drawing of straight lines, and useful for general purposes. It provides a defined line on a map, broadly based on the main elements resulting from marine influences, removing the arbitrariness of a uniform distance from the coastline. Accuracy in determining the boundary line would not be considered important or necessary. The NPA does not believe it is logical or desirable to include areas truly remote from the coastline, such as the total catchments of rivers which extend for long distances inland, on the basis that influences far upstream impact upon the coast. Such influences cannot be denied, but this does not, and cannot, mean that such remote areas are a part of the coast. Similarly, the waters seaward of the low tide mark are not the coast itself, and are the subject of the NPA’s policy on Marine National Parks, Marine Nature Reserves, and Marine Recreation Areas.

NATURE CONSERVATION means ensuring the continuous existence of all classes of natural elements, living or non-living (including geological features and landforms), and the ongoing full functioning and evolution of natural species and systems.

PROTECTION means the prevention of any kind of human interference or influence, such as damage, killing, maiming, disturbance, or modification, relating to the natural environment or wildlife (flora and fauna).

NATURAL AREAS are areas of land or water substantially in a state of nature, functioning as natural systems.

MANAGEMENT is the intervention of human control in order to implement objectives relating to conservation, protection, and use of the coast.

PLANNING INSTRUMENTS are legally provided means of achieving planning objectives through general policy, e.g., State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs), Regional Environmental Plans (REPs), Local Environmental Plans (LEPs), Interim Development Orders (IDOs), Permanent Conservation Orders (PCOs), and Interim Protection Orders (IPOs).

8(b) land [or 6(c) in the case of the Myall Lakes Area Plan] means land designated in planning instruments as future national park, nature reserve, etc.

PASSIVE RECREATION is recreation which has a minimal impact upon the natural environment and wildlife, and upon the enjoyment and seclusion of other people.

POLICY

1. PROTECTION OF NATURAL AREAS

1.1 Protection priority

All remaining substantially natural land and waters on the coast, including estuaries, lagoons, and wetlands, should be protected from development or other human interference or influence.

1.2 Identification and inventory

1.2.1 The Ministers for Planning and Environment should cause all substantially natural remaining areas of coastal land and water (including islands) to be identified and listed in an inventory.

1.2.2 Input from the community should be considered during the compilation of a draft inventory, and the comment should be invited and considered prior to finalisation. (See also 1.16).

1.3 Planning instruments

1.3.1 The whole NSW coast should be included in planning instruments under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979.

1.3.2 All coastal planning instruments should be reviewed concurrently with the identification process (see 1.2), with the object of maximising the protection of natural areas.

1.4 Reservation

All identified natural areas on the coast identified under 1.2 should be reserved under State legislation, as follows:

1.4.1 Areas of substantial size and/or of high conservation value or scenic quality should be reserved as national parks or other reserves provided for under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, 1974, and under the Wilderness Act, 1987.

This may involve first revoking areas presently reserved under the Crown Lands Act, 1989, or under other acts.

1.4.2 Areas unsuitable for reservation under the NP&W Act should be gazetted as Crown reserves under the Crown Lands Act, 1989, or otherwise under appropriate acts.

1.4.3 Adequate representative samples of all coastal land systems, land units, ecosystems, and plant and animal communities should be identified within the inventory, and reserved under the NP&W Act irrespective of the constraints referred to in 1.4.2.

1.4.4 The Government should gazette its final decisions on reserves within two years of the completion (see 1.2.2) of the inventory.

1.5 Land tenure

1.5.1 Crown Land (including leasehold, or land vested in other government agencies, e.g. NSW State Forests) designated for reservation should not be sold, alienated, or modified in any way.

1.5.2 Freehold land designated for reservation should generally be acq2uired by the Government at fair market value under the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act, 1991.

1.6 Coastal Lands Protection Scheme

The CLPS should be retained as a repository for coastal land acquisition and management funds, and its administration officers should have an advisory role in the compilation of the natural area inventory and in the service of an independent Coastal Council, which is set up under the Act.

1.7 Priority areas

1.7.1 Headlands, heathlands, littoral rainforests, estuaries, wetlands (both freshwater and saline), rare plant communities or habitat for rare, endangered or threatened species, and areas recognised as important by international treaty or agreement, should be regarded as priority natural areas for reservation.

1.7.2 A priority area should be buffered wherever possible by substantial surrounding land or water which forms part of the reserve.

1.8 Intertidal lands

1.8.1 The strip of land (beach, rock platform, etc.) between mean high and low water marks on ocean coasts and estuaries, where adjacent to the National Parks and Wildlife Service Estate, should be made part of the Estate.

1.8.2 Intertidal lands of high or special natural value, which are not adjacent to the NP&WS Estate, should be considered for addition to the Estate.

1.9 Waterbodies and waterways

The beds and waters of coastal lakes, lagoons, ponds, estuaries, rivers, creeks or streams which are substantially enclosed by the NP&WS Estate should be made parts of the Estate. (See also Policy No. 17 - Integration of Certain Lands and Waters into National Parks and Nature Reserves).

1.10 Marine reserves

1.10.1 Whenever justified for conservation purposes, marine areas adjacent to terrestrial reserves, as well as in identified unrelated locations, should be reserved as marine and estuarine protected areas (MEPAs).

1.10.2 A major proportion of such MEPAs should be zoned marine national park or marine nature reserve.

1.11 Wilderness

1.11.1 Coastal wildernesses should be identified in reference to a scale of size appropriate to the coast, by virtue, for instance, of its

* long length parallel to the coast, uninterrupted by development and shielded from obtrusive sights, sounds etc, of neighbouring developments and activities;

* unusually large area for the coast, well buffered from development, activities etc; or

* isolation due to protrusion into the ocean, to the backing of a coastal lagoon, or as an island.

1.11.2 Identified coastal wilderness should be reserved as national park or nature reserve under the NP&W Act. This Act should be strengthened in due course to provide wilderness wilderness protection and management equal to or better than that provided by the Wilderness Act, 1987).

1.12 Catchment protection

A protected coastal area should ideally extend to include the whole of its water catchment. Any potential source of pollution in the catchment should be strictly policed by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), which should implement the provisions of the Clean Waters Act.

1.13 Treaties, conventions, agreements etc.

Areas identified as significant to international treaties, conventions agreements etc. relevant to nature conservation should be reserved within the NP&WS Estate and specifically zoned.

Documents include the several migratory bird agreements, the biodiversity and climate change conventions, and the Rio Declaration.

1.14 Non-reserve areas

1.14.1 Identified natural areas, proposed for reservation under the NP&W Act, should be zoned 8(b) [6(c) in Myall Lakes Area Plan] or other recognised zoning for this purpose.

1.14.2 Conservation agreements should be negotiated for identified natural areas which are not proposed for reservation, under S.69B of the NP&W Act.

1.15 Clearing and other interference

1.15.1 A moratorium should be placed on any clearing of vegetation, earthworks, or other major interference with natural conditions, on any coastal land while the identification of natural areas (see 1.2) is under way, and until final decisions are gazetted. During this period, local councils should not approve development applications.

1.15.2 No land registered in the inventory of natural areas should be cleared, either completely or partially or otherwise interfered with, unless approval is given by each of three authorities: the local council, the NP&WS, and the Soil Conservation Service. Conditions imposed by any of these authorities should be fully met.

1.15.3 Severe penalties should be imposed upon those who clear in breach of the above provisions or of any protection or conservation order or other restraining instrument, and penalties should be extra severe (in general) for clearing lands zoned 8(b) or its equivalent, (See 1.14.1).

1.16 Public participation

The public should be invited to make submissions on the identification (see 1.2.2), reservation, and future management of substantially natural coastal areas, and these should be considered by the ministers for Planning and Environment.

1.17 Federal funds should be made available to augment state funds, sufficiently to enable all private natural areas identified in the coastal inventory to be purchased. Allocation of such Federal funds should be made on the recommendation of the Australian Nature Conservation Agency (ANCA).

2. MANAGEMENT OF NATURAL AREAS

2.1 General objective

The coast’s identified and registered natural areas (see 1.2) should be managed for nature conservation and passive recreation.

2.2 Ecological sustainability

Management of the registered natural areas of the coast should fully implement the principle of ecological sustainability, by ensuring maintenance of ecological integrity, optimum populations of plants and animals, and natural biodiversity.

2.3 Integration

2.3.1 Because the coast includes developed areas (urban, rural, and industrial), and supports a range of activities (industrial, rural, service, domestic, recreational), and because various legislations, authorities, and governments are involved, management of the coast should be co-operative. Government authorities should come to agreement where their responsibilities overlap.

2.3.2 The best integrated management should recognise the need to protect natural areas from the environmental impacts of development or other activities occurring on other areas.

2.4 Population

In view of the high coastal population relative to that of the State as a whole, and its potential for unacceptable impact upon the coast's remaining natural areas, the Government of NSW should set population limits, both for the whole coast and for each separate community.

2.5 Rehabilitation

2.5.1 Degraded natural areas on the coast should be rehabilitated to a condition as close as practicable to the original natural state, or to a natural state determined in the plan of management.

2.5.2 Such management should include restoration of all biota native to the specific area, by such means as

* maintenance of natural or determined fire regimes, and

* removal of exotic plants and animals, using environmentally benign methods.

2.6 Wilderness

Coastal wilderness should be managed in the same way as inland wilderness, i.e. no roads or vehicle tracks, vehicles on land or water, horse-riding, etc., except that, due to its relatively smaller size and less remoteness, outside influences might assume a higher significance and indicate the need for more stringent safeguards of wilderness quality, such as buffers and additional surveillance.

2.7 Intertidal zone

The land between tidemarks should receive special management.

2.7.1 Where the zone adjoins the National Parks and Wildlife Estate

* the zone should be part of that Estate;

* the NP&WS should liaise with NSW Fisheries regarding ecological management of the intertidal zone;

* no harvesting of, or interference with, the interstitial fauna, rock-dwelling organisms, sea and shore birds, marine mammals, or other native fauna or flora, should be permitted.

2.7.2 No land motor vehicle (including amphibious vehicles and hovercraft) should be permitted on the intertidal zone, whether or not the zone is within or adjoining the NP&WS Estate.

2.8 Beaches, dunes and headlands

2.8.1 No vehicles of any kind should be permitted on any part of any beach, dune, dunefield, or reserve headland, except on properly formed and stabilised public or park roads which should terminate well behind foredunes.

Not every beach access road should go as far as this. The dunes or dunefield behind the foredune are often occupied by valuable features and habitats such as wetlands, littoral rainforest or tall wet forest, any of which may be too sensitive or scenic to be intruded by a road. In such cases, the road should terminate at an appropriate point further inland, and a carefully designed and located track provided for pedestrian access to the beach or headland.

2.8.2 Sand blows and other bare or "live" sand areas behind beaches should be revegetated only where a loss of native vegetation is thought or known to have been caused, directly or indirectly, by human activity, or where a rare or endangered fauna habitat is being threatened by the vegetation loss.

2.8.3 Clean-ups of man-made shore litter should be carried out periodically by or for the land management authority, but vehicles should not be driven over rock platforms or vegetated sand areas for this or any other purpose.

2.9 Rock platforms

Removing marine flora and fauna from rock platforms down to extreme low water level should be forbidden.

See the NPA Policy on Marine National Parks (etc) for a policy banning similar exploitation of marine national parks, nature reserves and recreation areas.

2.10 Water bodies

Upon or within estuaries, lagoons, rivers, creeks, lakes and ponds included in the NP&WS Estate, the following provisions should apply:

2.10.1 There should be no recreational motorised craft - water, water to air, or amphibious;

2.10.2 The NP&WS must strictly enforce its prohibition of any exploitative or damaging activity, using its powers under the Regulations under the NP&W Act, the Plan of Management, Species Protection Plans, etc. 2.10.3 Marine mammal watching should be kept well below the level at which the animals could become disturbed thereby, and should conform with the rules set down by the Australian Nature Conservation Agency (ANCA).

2.10.4 Lagoon waters should not be artificially released, except by or with the approval of the NP&WS in accordance with the best expert scientific advice.

2.11 Wetlands

2.11.1 The draining of coastal wetlands should be prohibited.

All wetlands are valuable natural environments, preserving a particular range of habitats and biodiversity. It is unacceptable to drain them, even if this is justified for so-called flood mitigation or for land reclamation.

2.11.2 Every effort should be made, by immediate government action, to arrest processes of decline of wetlands, such as excessive pollution, saltwater intrusion (into freshwater wetlands), and aquatic weed invasion and proliferation, cause by human interference such as flood mitigation works, urban effluent discharge, introduction of weeds and failure to control them, dumping of aquarium plants, etc.

2.12 Exotics

2.12.1 A determined effort should be made to control, and ultimately eradicate, introduced plants and animals from the coast, using methods which do not have an adverse effect upon native biota and systems. 2.12.2 The ongoing effort to control Bitou Bush and Lantana, and Water Hyacinth and Salvinia, and other weeds of similar significance, should be increased.

2.13 Scenery

Scenic values should be maintained in all possible ways, and should include special care of old shoreline trees, maximum possible preservation of the scenic viewscape seen from reserves, and unobtrusive siting and construction of roads, tracks, timber steps and platforms, boat ramps, jetties, and buildings of all kinds, etc.

2.14 Appropriate recreation

Recreation in natural coastal areas should generally be of a passive nature, including such activities as walking, picnicking, viewing, swimming, surfing, and non-motorised boating and sailing, and excluding motorised recreation such as beach driving anywhere and motor boating on waters enclosed by national parks or nature reserves, and any activity destructive of natural vegetation and formations, or involving the taking, killing, or disturbance of any species of native fauna.

2.15 Federal-State co-operation

The Federal and NSW Governments should co-operate in coastal management through an integration plan under appropriate Federal legislation mirrored by State legislation.

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