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NSW Coastline Management Manual

New South Wales Government
September 1990

ISBN 0730575063

Appendix D: Hazard Management Options

Appendix D3 - Environmental Planning Options


A variety of environmental planning options are available to manage coastline hazards, the most obvious one being land use zoning. The basic aim of zoning is to generally separate new developments from hazardous areas, or to ensure that the type of development and its damage potential are consistent with hazard risk.

This appendix discusses land use zones of relevance to coastal planning, other planning controls and a variety of financial measures for the management of coastline hazards.


A basic means of implementing planning controls is through land use zones. The broad categories of zones appropriate to coastline planning and incorporation in LEP's are as follows:

The selection of zones is a matter for council discretion, but they must be consistent with directions given by the Minister for Planning under Section 117 of the EPA Act. The State Government recognises the special significance of the coastline and accordingly the Department of Planning provides special guidance on coastal zoning through formal planning instruments such as REP's and through advice to councils by departmental circulars.

Selection of coastline zones is an important part of planning for the broader coastal environment. Coastal planning strategies relating to a variety of issues, such as urban development, environmental protection, access links to settlements and the sea, tourism, etc., will effect the choice of suitable coastline zones. Various factors that affect the choice of coastal zones are discussed below.

Environment Protection Zones

Areas with special environmental, scientific, heritage or scenic significance can be incorporated into "Environment Protection Zones".

Such areas may include special vegetation and special faunal habitats in backbeach areas, as well as the vegetated sand dune system of the beach. Areas of State or regional significance, as identified under SEPP 14 (Coastal Wetlands) or SEPP 26 (Littoral Rainforests) are appropriate for inclusion in Environment Protection Zones. Such zones are similarly appropriate for areas of aboriginal heritage and areas of geological or geomorphological significance.

The land use table accompanying this zone should generally prohibit any development liable to have detrimental impacts on environmental values.

An "Environmental Protection (Foreshore Protection) Zone" can also be used to designate a buffer zone over natural environments, such as undeveloped beaches, vegetated dunes, and coastal bluffs and headlands.

Coastal Lands Protection Zones

Areas identified under the New South Wales Government's Coastal Lands Protection Scheme are appropriate for inclusion in "Environment Protection (Coastal Lands Protection) Zones".

Lands designated "yellow" under the scheme are important because of their scenic qualities. Such lands require special protection and should be zoned "Environment Protection 7(f1) - Coastal Lands Protection".

Lands designated "red" under the scheme have important environmental or access characteristics and are to be acquired by the Government. Such lands should be zoned "Environment Protection 7(f2) - Coastal Lands Acquisition".

The concurrence of the Director of Planning is required for certain developments in these zones.

Land use tables generally only permit low key forms of agriculture without consent and more intensive agriculture with consent in these zones. Other land uses are usually prohibited. However, in the 7(f1) zone, certain uses with consent may be permitted, including forestry, dwellings, caravan parks and camping grounds.

Open Space Zones

Where recreation use and appreciation of the shoreline are significant aspects of an area, an "Open Space Zone" may be appropriate. Such zones may incorporate both public and private coastal land on beaches and headlands.

In developed coastal areas where there is no long term shoreline recession, this zone can be useful as a coastal buffer zone to allow the beach to erode and accrete without damaging urban developments to the rear of the zone.

Land use tables may, with consent, permit recreation and structures relating to recreation activities in Open Space Zones, e.g. surf lifesaving facilities. In these cases, councils should treat each application on its merits having regard to the damage potential to the development itself and its impact on the beach, especially if protective works are proposed. Relocatable structures can also be considered in Open Space Zones.

In rural locations the Open Space Zone may, with consent, permit such uses as camping areas, agriculture and forestry. Most other uses are generally prohibited.

Rural Zones

Agricultural lands and areas used for farming purposes, market gardening, plantations, orchards and the like, can be included in "Rural Zones". Vegetated dune systems may require protection from the disturbance of agricultural operations. This can be achieved by restricting agricultural practices on dune areas by means of development conditions. If the coastline is not receding, the use of a buffer zone facilitates public access to the beach and the enjoyment thereof.

A wide range of non-urban uses is generally permitted with and without consent in Rural Zones, including rural tourist facilities in some cases.

Tourist Zones

A "Tourist Zone" may be appropriate where key areas of the coastline have been identified as potential sites for major tourist development. An Environmental Study is generally required to assess the impact of major tourist developments. The study should include consideration of coastline hazards with a view to minimising social disruption, property damage and human risk.

Substantial buildings are likely to be a feature of major tourist developments. There will usually be a desire to site these structures in close proximity to the beach and sea. The Environmental Study is the appropriate vehicle to address the social and environmental issues involved, as well as appropriate design conditions to take account of coastal development hazards.

On receding shorelines, consideration should be given to planning approaches such as relocatable buildings, planned retreat, abandonment of use at a specified future time.

The full range of tourist related facilities and uses is generally permitted with consent in a "Tourist Zone". Any residential component of a tourist development should be consistent with the residential development strategy for the wider coastal area. Matters outlined below for residential zones are also relevant for any residential component of a tourist proposal.

Residential Zones

Places designated for living areas and containing houses, duplexes, units, flats and homes for the aged are to be included in "Residential Zones".

These areas are particularly sensitive to coastline hazards and once zoned will continue to be developed and redeveloped for urban use. Residents are generally prepared to go to great lengths and costs to retain coastal residential sites, even in the aftermath of extremely hazardous events and notwithstanding that their actions may be at community cost and cause disruption to beach amenity.

It is essential that great care be taken in the siting of "Residential Zones" and in the management of coastline hazards that may affect them.

Residential zones can be separated from the coastline by a buffer zone which should provide for extreme movements of the beach erosion escarpment or cliff line, both now and in the future. However, such an approach is only viable in the long term on a stable coastline. Great care needs to be taken with the siting of residential developments on receding coastlines.

When a residential zone is in proximity to a hazardous section of the coastline, it is recommended that any dwelling require development consent. In this way, the adequacy of the design, the siting of the dwelling on the land and its likely exposure to hazard can be checked. Commercial, industrial, agricultural and other uses incompatible with living areas are prohibited in Residential Zones.

Commercial Zones

Shops and offices are included in "Commercial Zones". In addition, coastal activities and enterprises such as motels and waterfront developments, including commercial fishing outlets, boating and leisure related activities, are also appropriate to this zone.

Consideration of entrance and coastal inundation hazards is required when commercial developments are sited along the waterfront of the coast or an estuary.

Consent is generally required for all commercial uses in coastal Commercial Zones.

Industrial Zones

All industrial related activities including factories, engineering workshops, garages, workshops and the like are generally included in "Industrial Zones". Many of these activities are in conflict with the use of coastal areas for recreation and amenity.

Consideration of entrance and coastal inundation hazards is required when industrial developments are sited along the waterfront of the coast or an estuary.

Coastal Industrial Zones are generally quite specific with regard to allowable uses, nearly all of which will require consent, and with regard to prohibited uses.

Special Use Zones

Uses relating to hospitals, schools, public halls, churches, police and fire stations, telephone exchanges, electricity sub-stations and sewerage works can be included in "Special Use Zones".

Because a number of these facilities may be extremely important during a hazard event, it is essential that special use zones are sited in safe positions. The continued operation of buildings and services for emergency purposes may be important in reducing social disruption during the course of a hazard event.

Safe inland sites are preferred for these uses. Special Use Zones generally permit only identified uses with consent and prohibit most other uses.


A "Buffer Zone" is the most fundamental form of land use control. Its purpose is to accommodate shoreline fluctuations caused by storm erosion and swell wave rebuilding, but it has severe shortcomings as a means of addressing high rates of coastal recession. On receding coastlines, history has shown that many developments sited behind buffer zones have been subject to major social, economic and political problems.

Buffer zones can be secured through zoning in LEP's, reservation, acquisition of existing land, or by reclamation of the beach by groynes or sand nourishment. The required width of buffer zone will vary according to the sediment budget, dune stability, wind/wave climate, and the orientation and configuration of the coastline and social, economic, aesthetic and ecological factors.

An adequate maintenance program is essential for designated buffer zones. Otherwise the result may be beach abandonment rather than beach protection. An important aspect of buffer zone management is the preservation or re-establishment of dune and backbeach vegetation.

Creation of a buffer zone need not imply that the land falls into misuse. A variety of sympathetic uses are possible, including certain types of recreation, recreation facilities such as surf lifesaving facilities, scenic amenity, and commercial enterprises using portable or expendable facilities.

It is often the case that a land use other than "development" is established adjacent to the coastline for social, ecological or recreational purposes. The width required for those purposes may be adequate to accommodate beach fluctuation or low rates of recession, although the motive should be explicit and not justified on coastal hazard grounds alone. It should be realised that where recession is occurring the width of such a zone will reduce as time passes and may ultimately become too narrow for the purpose for which it was established.


The voluntary purchase of properties at undue risk, especially if they are few in number and isolated from other major developments, is often a cost-effective means of hazard mitigation. The land can then be rezoned into a category appropriate to the risk and consequences of the hazard. Voluntary purchase can become expensive if there are a large number of properties at risk. The costs to the community become even higher if urban services have been provided on a substantial scale. (These services are sacrificed when the properties are resumed).


Planned retreat would appear to be an effective and equitable way of maximizing the use of a receding coastline. The recession of the coastline is acknowledged and becomes a dominant factor in planning for the use of coastal areas. A variety of responses are possible, including time limited occupation, relocatable buildings, etc.

Byron Shire Council has recently adopted planned retreat as a means of managing their receding coastline. The Byron Shire Development Control Plan recognises three recession/erosion "lines" for planning purposes: an "immediate impact line", a "50 year erosion line" and a "100 year erosion line". These lines were identified in a coastal process study. Development conditions for the zones formed by these lines, as specified in the DCP, are as shown below:

1. Between the beach escarpment and the "immediate impact line", generally no new buildings or works are preferred. Community buildings not requiring a major extension of services may be allowed. Such buildings must be easily removable.

2. Between the "immediate impact line" and the "50 year erosion line", development will be considered on the understanding that any consent granted will be subject to the proviso that, when the erosion escarpment comes to within 50m of any building, the development consent will then cease. The owner will then be responsible for the removal of any or all buildings from the site, or, if possible, to a location on the site further than 50m from the erosion escarpment.

3. Similar controls apply to the area between the "50 year" and "100 year" erosion lines. The option of demolition as the means of removal is available for all buildings.

By this approach, Byron Shire facilitates a planned retreat from a receding coastline whilst encouraging responsible use of hazardous coastal areas at minimum future cost to council.

The performance of this approach has yet to be tested in the sense that significant movement of the erosion escarpment has not occurred since the introduction of the plan. The question of "enforcing" the lapse of consent and consequent removal of structures needs careful consideration.


In certain circumstances, a council may wish to impose a freeze on all beachfront development until more information is available. In such cases, a coastal engineer's report may be required for all building applications for additions to existing buildings or for the redevelopment of areas at risk.

To ensure that existing property is not exposed to additional risk and that Council's liability is minimised, Council should treat any addition to buildings fronting the beach as a potential risk.


Voluntary purchase and planned retreat from hazardous coastlines may be viable means of management in undeveloped or partly developed areas. However, such an approach becomes increasingly expensive and difficult in more intensively developed areas.

In such cases, coastal protection may be the only economically viable and socially acceptable means of management. This has a number of potentially detrimental planning implications. Recreational use and scenic appeal of the beach may be reduced if seawalls are built. Alternatively, further costly works may be required in the future to replace beach sand. Protection of developed areas of the beach may be at the expense of increased erosion in other areas.

In cases where no overall management program is adopted, individual property owners may resort to a variety of approaches to protect their properties. Moreover, individual efforts may exacerbate problems at neighbouring properties. In these circumstances, the community suffers the visual blight of a variety of "protective" features along the beach, the cost of emergency services in times of hazard, and ultimately the cost of remedial measures to repair damage and address the problem.