This week our community has seen the first signs of action on a major environmental issue for our coastline, an issue that’s entirely human and preventable.
PBCA and other local groups have been ringing the alarm bells for several years now about the rising problem of private encroachment and damage along our Eastern beach dunes and reserves.
A Council staff assessment and satellite mapping shows our concerns are valid.
It’s calculated about 90 percent of beachfront owners are doing the wrong thing, some encroaching a few metres…others by as much as 40 or 50 metres into public land. That’s a shocking figure.
Only one in ten are doing the right thing by our beachfront environment.
While PBCA is alarmed by the scale of the problem, we are pleased to finally see signs that Council may be prepared to tackle it seriously, and soon.
PBCA and Marcus Beach Bush Care Associations formed a deputation to Council recently calling for immediate action where possible on encroachment enforcement, rather than waiting for consultation on the broader elements of the plan.
We think Council acted appropriately by moving to bring forward the enforcement policy to the January 2023 round of meetings. This aspect does not require further talking, it requires Council leadership.
Ou Council already has photographic and other evidence of encroachments but have failed to act, passing the buck back and forward.
Cr Brian Stockwell's proposal for a new Ranger Program with dual responsibilities for natural areas and river management and compliance responsibilities was adopted by Council and we applaud this positive change.
The Ranger’s dual role of environment and compliance officer is essential and unfortunately they will need to operate as a two person team to cope with some of the abuse they will face.
Education of property owners clearly has not occurred and successive Councils have allowed this situation to deteriorate for too long.
In addition to the satellite mapping referred to by Council staff, PBCA recently revealed encroachments at:
Sunshine Beach: • A private set of stairs into the public dunal area • A garden in the public dunal area • Stormwater pipes laid and draining into the public dunal area • Destroyed native vegetation in the public dunal area abutting a residence
Marcus Beach: • Private manicured lawn following the removal of natives on the public dunal area
Peregian Beach: • Dunal erosion up to a private bench chair on the public dunal area. • Private manicured lawn on the public dunal area • A popup sprinkler installed under a manicured lawn following the removal of natives on the public dunal area
Most of these encroachments have been reported to Council with photographic evidence.
It appears The Eastern Beaches Foreshore Management Plan will see the encroachment budget raised from its current level of ZERO to $415,000 per year to cover implementation, site rehabilitation and legal costs.
Council is finally accepting responsibility and moving to allocate staff and a budget now that the community has pushed them to act.
It will now be up to this Council to honour the “zero tolerance approach” it has adopted in the face of the expected blow-back from some rogue property owners who have shown little respect for public land and perhaps limited knowledge of the damage their actions are causing to the environment.
We will be watching closely over the next few months.
Rochelle Gooch & Barry Cotterell (PBCA) with Cr Tom Wegener