Thursday, 30 October 2014

Help Save North Emerald - Act TODAY!

Hi all,

The date for submissions on this important project have been extended.  Here is the submission made by URGE (United Residents Group of Emerald)  Please make a submission asap.  Here are the email addresses:

General Manager Steve McGrath 
Mayor Denise Knight -
Cr John Arkan -
Cr Nan Cowling -
Cr Rodney Degens -
Cr Garry Innes -
Cr Bob Palmer -
Cr Jeith Rhoades -
Cr Mark Sultana -
Cr Sally Townley -

Dear Mayor, Councillors and Mr McGrath,

This submission is made on behalf of the United Residents Group of Emerald (URGE). We call Emerald Beach home and we are gravely concerned about the DA 172/14, Pridel Investments, 40 lot sub-division at North Emerald Beach. We list a number of questions and concerns here:-

  1. Litigation risk to Council and the community.
We are greatly concerned by the significant legal exposure of Council if it approves this development. As we have seen elsewhere in Australia, developer disclaimers are no guarantee of minimising legal exposure when marginal and high risk land such as this is approved for development and houses are lost to natural forces i.e. Belongil Beach, Byron Shire. This development is in an extremely high coastal risk zone (detailed in point 2). We do not want the added financial pressure that legalities in the future may present Council and thus the community. When you consider that the insurance company, Citibank has invested $50 billion over the last 5 years to mitigate Climate Change, you realise that insurance companies consider climate change as a real and serious financial risk. Thus, it is clear that the long term legal exposure of developments such as this MUST be seriously considered by Council. (Source:-
as well as viewed 6/11/14).

Before any kind of approval, Council needs to provide clear, legally valid evidence of how they will deal with this particular issue and also how this issue may affect Council’s own insurance premiums over time. This is a hidden cost born by Council itself and subsequently the rate payers that must be clarified immediately. Considering the legal exposure that Council already faces with a number of other vulnerable developments (with sea level changes and flooding), the question must be asked, are we financially in a position to be further stretched in this way? Is there other low-risk land to develop, can’t we accommodate these houses using residential consolidation in Coffs Harbour itself?

We request a thorough cost analysis of the legal exposure to Council related to this development as well as the forecasted insurance premiums of Council over time as a result of this and other vulnerable developments.

If development is to be approved, we request that a condition of approval is that the Developer (and presumably the ongoing title holder of Lot 40), must provide a letter of indefinite legal insurance for the site which would cover loss and damages to life and property- the dune system as well as neighbouring infrastructure and housing- as a result of flooding and dune erosion resulting from the development. Even this would not be enough to protect Council from lengthy and expensive counter-legal action of ‘proving’ the damage was caused by the development and not poor planning. Why take the risk in the first place?             

2. Coastal Zone Hazard- cumulative impacts.
For this issue, we would like to draw your attention to Councils own Coastal Zone Management Plan (January 2013) prepared by the Consultant BMT and Council officer Malcolm Robertson. It is also important to reference relevant State Legislation-the Coastal Zone Protection Act (1979) as well as SEPP No. 71 Coastal Protection[1]- at this point and consider its relevance to this DA.

Page 66 (pdf reader page 66) of Council’s Coastal Zone Management Plan clearly illustrates the assessment and mapping of the proposed development site. It zones the development area as being of “EXTREME” risk (the highest possible rating) of coastal erosion and/or inundation. This document places risks in three timeframes- immediately, in 2050 and 2100. This DA site is listed as “EXTREME” for all three time frames. This document has been approved by Council as well as the NSW Coastal Panel and meets the relevant State legislation requirements.

The DA as it stands does not consider this risk at all. It notes the BMT ‘erosion’ lines but does not give any reference to the BMT prepared Coastal Zone Plan’s ‘EXTREME’ rating for the site and how the development seeks to mitigate this risk. This is a severe shortfall in the DA that must be amended before due consideration can be given to it. How will the Development protect itself from Oceanic Inundation and flooding?

Perhaps, what is of greater concern is that existing development and infrastructure at Emerald Beach (along the opening of Fiddaman Creek) is also considered to be in this EXTREME category. This means that existing housing is already at risk from oceanic inundation processes. How is Council placed to manage (financially) these existing threats? Why would we place future developments on an EXTREME Coastal Zone Hazard site as proposed by this DA? In this day and age it would be akin planning to develop housing in an extreme fire risk environment with no consideration of the worst case scenario and no controls being taken to minimise any kind of danger to landholders or Council itself. To develop at this site as proposed by this DA would be to place people’s lives and homes in danger. It would seem like a terrific and somewhat lunatic risk to take.

Council’s own risk assessments are coupled with specialist knowledge from the Bureau of Meteorology. What must be highlighted here is the nature of Oceanic Inundation as opposed to Estuarial Inundation. With Oceanic Inundation there is the coupling of sea level change with storm surge. In the case of this development (due to its proximity to a wetland and a creek) we need to also add in the impacts of flooding from the wetland and creek itself. This then creates a serious cumulative impact- sea level rise, storm surge, flooding and the nature of wetlands themselves. What would happen to this development with an east coast low with 9m swell, intense rain, and a sea level rise of even 20 cm? We witnessed what it did to the storm-force engineered North wall and that was without any sea level rise. What would it do to dynamic, unstable sand dunes with sea level rise? Why take the risk?

We must take into consideration that the dunes are already by their very nature unstable. We must then consider that they have been destabilised by sand mining in the past and are still recovering. We must also layer on the fact that a lot of the existing vegetation is in a natural senescent phase with mature trees dying back as young ones emerge. Again we have a cumulative impact of serious proportion. To borrow from a fire analogy, it is not a fire that is the problem. It is a fire with low humidity, with strong westerly winds with a heavy fuel load and a lightening strike. Cumulative impacts are key to assessing coastal zone hazard and this development.

As residents, we have noticed a number of changes in Fiddaman Creek in the last 12 months which we believe may be linked to the Pacific Highway upgrade. The creek no longer flows. Over the past 20 years the opening of the creek has silted up temporarily (say for 2 months). In the last 2 years it has silted up permanently with one temporary opening in the recent winter 2014 storm even for two days. What was concerning during this storm event, was that the creek was flowing extremely rapidly (perhaps from the increased surface area of the highway) and a very large opening was created. This was matched with a 3m dead east swell and a swell period of 14 seconds. It was also matched with high tides in a higher range. This is not an unusual or particularly large swell. However, we witnessed the creek opening enlarge and sand erosion being undertaken west of the sea leaving high ‘sand cliffs’. What was concerning was seeing that without the normal deep channels gouged by the creek in the Oceanside in front of the creek mouth, waves were breaking on the shallower than normal sand bars furthering erosion. This was unusual as normally the deep channel prevents this effect. For a day we watched 2 foot waves ride up Fiddaman Creek. I personally (Elisabeth Nicolson) caught a number of waves on a body board from the creek mouth back up the creek with one very large wave taking me up to the Caravan Park. The reach of these waves was evidenced by pumice stone deposition at the Caravan Park. If this event happened frequently, the houses along Fiddaman Creek would be in danger of inundation as would the whole frontal dune system. This is clear in Council’s Coastal Zone Management Plan.

This particular geomorphology and its implications on the Fiddaman hydrology has not been considered in the DA and needs to be. The influence of the increased surface area of the catchment and silt load as a result of the Pacific Highway needs to be considered in terms of increased (not considered) flood risk from Fiddamans Creek as well as erosion risk from the ocean.

If this development is approved, we want to know how Council is financially prepared in terms of having money to repair roads, sewage and water infrastructure and the coastline itself in the future. This is another hidden cost that council bares over time in an already financially constrained period. It is not the developer that is responsible when the dunes fail, the creek floods, houses are lost or the wetlands increase permanently, it is Council.

3. Fiddaman Road and Fishermans Drive flooding
As mentioned in the previous section, the fluvial geomorphology of Fiddaman Creek has changed since the Pacific Highway upgrade and most likely development at Emerald Heights. With this development, we see more catchment surface area added. The houses and the development’s road will increase the volume of water running off to the wetland and Fiddaman Creek during storm events. This has been poorly considered by the DA. Flooding is vaguely alluded to and swale mitigation is seen as being sufficient. However, we wish to see the Hydrology and Geomorphology studies that consider run-off volume coupled with Oceanic Inundation factors. We feel that swales do not deal with this issue at all.

There is also poor consideration of flood mitigation infrastructure for existing houses on Island View Drive and Fishermans Drive as well as Fiddaman Road. Likelihood of flooding of these properties will increase as a result of increased catchment surface area from the houses and road of the development. The DA does not consider these properties or how to prevent surface area run off to the wetland and thus the Creek. It is impossible for a wet sponge to take in and hold more water. There is no difference when it comes to a wetland.

The other deficiency of the DA is who will maintain the proposed Swales and who will pay for ongoing maintenance? Does Council again have to bare this?

4. Flooding and maintenance of the DA road
There is one road in/out for the development. The other issue to consider here is flooding of the access road to the development. During a flood event it is highly likely that the access road (as it crosses a wetland) will flood. As the only other access road is presumed to be from the Caravan park- a large problem arises. The road to the caravan park crosses Fiddaman Creek which could be inundated in future flood events. We will then have people stranded in the Caravan Park as well as in the development area. This risks people’s lives and property. 

Council’s own sea level rise mapping demonstrates that the development road will be underwater in the future using the most conservative modelling. The DA makes no consideration of this and provides no evidence of how it has considered this factor or planned for it- in terms of engineering or financial cost-sharing for road maintenance with Council. Again, it is Council that bares this cost in time, not the developer. This aspect must be included in the DA for solid decision making to be made.

4. Sewage impacts and cost. 
The DA states that the development’s sewage will be connected to the existing Emerald sewage system. The concern here is that at present the Emerald sewage system is not coping with current demand. Over the last week, Council staff have been called out 3 times to deal with overflowing sewage. It seems that the addition of oil to the system potentially by food providers is clogging up the system when combined with current demand. How will this system deal with 40 additional dwellings? How has this cost been adequately considered by the development? Does Council foot this expense as well? The required contribution from the Developer is not enough to cover all of these complex and ongoing costs.

Our second concern here relates to the construction of pipes to connect the new houses with Emerald the sewage system. It would seem that significant excavation of the wetland area would need to occur. Pipes would then be placed in Acid Sulphate soils. How has this additional cost be considered in terms of maintenance over time? How has this construction impact been considered? If pipes or the system fails, it will leak into Fiddaman creek. This is of great concern under the POEO Act, and it is Council who bears the ongoing maintenance cost as well as litigation cost regarding breaches to the POEO Act of such incidences not the developer.  

5. Water and electricity infrastructure
How and where will water and electricity be taken to the site? This is another vague point of the DA and needs to be clarified before a decision can be made. Will the wires run along the road? Will the wires cross the wetland to the caravan park? Most importantly will a new substation need to be constructed? If so where? Will water be piped from Emerald and does this mean that pipes will need to go under the wetland? If so, how are Acid Sulphate soils and pipe longevity costed? What happens if a pipe breaks in the wetland zone- one would think this would exasperate rapidly into local area flooding especially during a storm event? All this vital information is missing from the DA.

6. Bushfire hazard
The DA indicates that the Caravan Park road will provide emergency access to the site. We have three concerns with this- 1. has the Caravan been formally approached regarding this and where is a document indicating that they agree to this? 2. how will large fire and rescue vehicles manoeuvre the caravan park roads especially when we consider the number of children that freely play on these roads and how narrow they are? 3. have the Rural Fire Service agreed to this option, and if so, where is this documented in the DA?

7. Partitioning of the Emerald Community
The DA indicates that residents will access the beach via one identified path half way down the beach. How will residents of the new development residents access the Emerald Beach community? It can’t be expected that they will walk up the beach. Nor can they access the community via the Caravan Park as this is not a public thoroughfare- at present Emerald Beach residents need to pay to walk through the park. Will they create their own informal tracks- a serious concern for maintenance of the regional park? OR will they need to drive to the community each time- which poses a serious concern regarding parking and traffic? In light of this, we feel that the development leads to partitioning of the Emerald Community in a disturbing manner. This contradicts the intent and direction of the Vision 2030 Strategy.

8. Traffic Volume and Flow as well as parking
The development states that there will be an additional 288 daily trips and 29 peak hour trips. This seems to be a large volume of traffic to put onto the Solitary Islands Way without additional traffic flow infrastructure.

An additional 40 plus cars parking in the Emerald Beach Village is also of concern in terms of parking and road safety in village with constrained parking. These issues have not been adequately dealt with in the DA. We are therefore calling for an adequate traffic study to be done before any kind of approval is given.

9. Local educational amenity
The development seems to assume that local schools (Sandy and Woolgoolga) are able to support extra students. We would like to see clear evidence of the ability of local educational and childcare facilities to support what may be up to 80 young people.

10. Bus stop
The development indicates that there is a ‘bus bay’ as part of service provision. We have two questions regarding this issue- have Ryans bus service been contacted about an extension to their service and have they agreed to it? If so where is evidence of this? How are the roads of the development designed to accommodate the manoeuvrability of the large buses? Without a bus stop or bus access, the development becomes car dependent which is contradictory to the Vision 2030 strategy.

11. Impacts on Biodiversity and Coastal amenity
We need to consider again, SEPP 71., and the Coastal Zone Protection Act. This legislation relates to the duty of care of Councils to coastal vegetation, animal species as well as the conservation of fish. The development has significant impacts upon a vulnerable habitat (wet coastal heathland) as well as a vulnerable species (Wallum Froglet). The development also impacts (through affecting Fish breeding grounds and coastal processes) the Solitary Islands Marine Park. Relevant here is Councils own Biodiversity Action Strategy and its implementation as well as a number of sections of the Vision 2030 strategy.

It must be remembered here that one of Council’s main income streams is from Tourism and people moving here. The area is popular because it is scenic and beautiful offering real nature experiences that are now rare along the East Coast. We need to be careful not to destroy this drawcard and revenue stream. Developments such as this pose that threat.

There have also been recent ‘attacks’ and sightings of a Spotted Quoll near the site that have been noted by National Parks. Spotted Quolls are highly relevant to the Federal EPBC Act. And thus, again, Council has a legal (as well as moral) responsibility to act accordingly. We request that further studies be undertaken on this site in partnership with NSW NPWS to determine the activities of Quolls on the site.

The DA states that dogs and cats will not be allowed as part of the development. How will this be enforced? This is not covered in the DA.

The DA does not consider weed infestation resulting from site disturbance, importation of fill to the site and garden escapees. The site is bordered by National Park (Moonee Nature Reserve), and the Coffs Harbour Regional Park. Weeds escaping from the development into these lands, is a serious concern that is not covered by the DA. Park maintenance in terms of Weeds is already an ongoing cost to Council as well as other relevant Government Agencies. This cost will therefore likely increase as a result of the development. Again, it is Council that pays for this, not the developer. This also contradicts Council’s Biodiversity Strategy as well as the relevant Weeds Strategies. 

The DA states that 80% of the site will be left in perpetuity. We have tried to ground truth this and the figures don’t add up. The site includes three rows of houses and two sections of road. If the development does conserve 80% of the site, this places the development almost on the beach. This aside, this figure of 80% ignores the impact of ecosystem fragmentation and the impact of development process on the original condition and thus value of the site.

12. Acid Sulphate Soils
The DA states that:

In order to avoid serious problems for housing safety and infrastructure, this needs to happen BEFORE development consent is given, not afterwards.

13. DA Ambiguity
The DA states that 38 lots will be developed and that one will be reserved for “integrated development”. It does not specify what ‘integrated development’ is- what does this mean? What does this look like? How can Council make a decision on something that it does not have information on?

There seems to be some confusion around costing for the development. On Council’s Development Application form, the developer has stated that the development is worth $3,000,000. In the Statement of Environmental Effects on page xiii, it refers to construction being worth $21 million. This point needs to be clarified in the DA before approval can be granted. Have they made a costing omission in the Development Application form?

Of greater concern is section 10 of this form where the developer is asked to disclose political donations and gifts. As can be seen here from the direct ‘cut and paste’ of this document, the developer has left this section completely blank. How can you consider a DA when this legally pressing, key piece of information is not a part of it? This opens Council up to legitimate inquiry from bodies such as ICAC.

In light of these 13 points, we, the United Residents Group of Emerald, ask that the DA aforementioned is not approved by Council at this time. 

Kind Regards,

Please find below a request from our new Co-Convenor Jonathan Cassell, as well as local residents of Emerald Beach and other Northern beaches areas to contribute a submission to Council re the planned development in the green space north of Emerald Beach.

Note:-The info below highlights the history and the strong environmental grounds against this proposed development, I would also add the surrounding areas also has indigenous cultural significance.

Please contact the councillors and add your voice re this submission before this Friday's deadline and share with others.

Kind Regards
Craig Christie
Coffs Harbour Greens Secretary

Attention: Emerald Beach residents and supporters for preserving our green belt area,
Please Cut & Paste the below submission (letter) to the email list provided or better still write your own. We have only until Friday.
The developer Pridel has met most of Council’s first requirements and they are now calling for further submissions by this Friday 31st.

Please add your voice to protect this this precious greenbelt-wildlife corridor, Fiddaman Creek from potentially serious increased flooding and probable silting, and the endangered plant and animal communities by sending the following submission into council now. 

Please cut and paste these addresses and attach the following letter with or without any further arguments and comments you would like to add.

Regards, Jonathan

Re:  Submission against DA 172/14, Pridel Investments, 40 lot sub-division at North Emerald Beach.
I wish to voice my strong objection to DA 172/14, Pridel Investments, 40 lot sub-division at Emerald Beach.
My reasons for opposing this Development Application are as follows:
  •            Council has previously identified this site as unsuitable to develop.  There have been at least 3 prior attempts to get an approval, all rejected by Council and verified by agreement in the Land and Environment Court.

  • There are no provisions for a designated beach access through the dunes to Emerald Beach. National Parks is extremely concerned that this will lead to a myriad of tracks which destroy the delicate dune vegetation and lead to degradation and erosion.

  •  Sea level rise and coastal erosion are genuine concerns for developing directly behind the dunes of Emerald Beach.  If this development is approved in this vulnerable coastal zone, Coffs Harbour City Council will be held accountable and ultimately have to pay if property and infrastructure are damaged through flooding and rising sea levels.

  •  Any development on, or alteration to, this area of coastal wetland, could potentially increase the flooding frequency and severity of Fiddaman Ck, impacting on existing properties in Emerald Beach village, and causing further expense for Council.

  • Development pressure on the Coffs Coast's narrow coastal zone is already extreme.  The proposed development area is identified as part of the precious Greenbelt. Further fragmentation of remaining coastal habitat will further obstruct wildlife corridors, essential for the movement of native animal populations, and adversely affect this area's unique biodiversity.

  •  The property is of high conservation value with endangered plant and animal communities.  Any development on this site will have an impact on the conservation and aesthetic values of this area which is unacceptable. 

  • If this development proceeds in spite of these issues, not only will Council, and therefore local ratepayers, be expected to pay when coastal disaster strikes, but we would have also lost an invaluable piece of our local natural heritage.

Once again, I am completely opposed to DA 172/14, Pridel Investments, 40 lot sub-division at Emerald Beach, and strongly request that Council reject this development proposal.