First, the Bad News.
Almost eight months ago we published Heads in the Sand. This story highlighted DuneCare’s need for help to quickly bolster the fore dune which, after protecting Wooli many times, was badly damaged by major storms in quick succession. Unfortunately, Clarence Valley Council (CVC) refused our request to use beach scraping even though this is a proven, inexpensive and widely used solution to this problem.
However, Council’s refusal was quickly shown to be a major error when shortly afterwards the (then) Environment Minister, Rob Stokes, strongly supported scraping in his speech to the NSW Coastal Conference. He followed this up by saying he would shortly write to the Council recommending and offering funding for beach scraping at Wooli.
So what’s the bad news in that you ask? Well, just before he wrote to CVC he was caught up in the recent reshuffle of the NSW Government and lost the Environment Portfolio. The major impacts on Wooli were:
- Council’s continued refusal to help rebuild our fore dune leaving Wooli exposed to upcoming Winter’s storms and
- a further six month delay in Ministerial approval of Wooli’s coastal management plan (CZMP) which aims to provide longer term protection of the beach.
Fortunately, the tide then started turning (pun intended) in Wooli’s favour when the new Environment Minister, Gabrielle Upton, was appointed.
CCPA quickly enlisted the help of Clarence MP, Chris Gulaptis, in arranging a meeting with her to go over these issues. Like Chris, our new CVC Mayor, Jim Simmons, also showed his support for Wooli by agreeing to a senior council manager, Des Schroder, joining us in attending the meeting thereby presenting a combined community and council view to Minister Upton.
- She has written to CVC supporting beach scraping at Wooli without the need for either an approved CZMP or further environmental studies and with funding being immediately available and
- Confirmed she would prioritise making a decision on whether or not to approve our CZMP. The Coastal Panel had earlier recommended against approving it until Council does several more studies (resulting in a major delay) while we and the council recommended approving it now, with any critical studies to be included in its first stage. We suspect the Minister’s decision may still be weeks away, hopefully not months.
After eight months of delays these steps make it feel like the force is with us again and Wooli’s future is being dug out of government limbo. Let’s leave our fingers crossed because the fore dune is still damaged, the storm season is still coming and the CZMP is not yet approved.