THE discovery the state government has spent just four per cent of its funding for addressing coastal hazards and erosion has been described as “devastating” by Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp.
He said Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) figures showed the government has allocated just $2.6 million over the past two years from the $63 million it announced in 2016 for its Coastal and Estuary Grants Program.
“This government has its priorities back to front,” Mr Crakanthorp said.
“If the Minister for the Environment had people walking down Bondi in her electorate wearing HAZMAT suits and picking up asbestos it would be a state emergency and there would be action immediately.
“Stockton does not seem to be a priority for them, even though we have a childcare centre falling into the ocean; the surf club, caravan park and [restaurant] Lexie’s at risk; and three parts of the tip exposed.
“They’d rather count the money in Sydney than act.
They’re burying their heads in the sand.
“At this rate, the government will spend just 10 per cent of all funding promised over five years to fix coastlines vulnerable to serious erosion.”
The grants program was established to provide technical and financial support to councils to assist in managing risks from coastal hazards, including erosion; restoring degraded coastal habitats; and improving the health of estuaries, wetlands and littoral rainforests.
The program is the main component of the state government’s $83.6 million coastal reforms package. Councils need to have a certified coastal zone management plan (CZMP) to gain access to the funding pool.
The Herald reported last November the OEH had refused to certify an early version of Newcastle City Council’s CZMP, which identified an artificial headland as the preferred option for managing Stockton’s erosion problem.
The council submitted a new version of the plan on July 31 this year. It has two parts: Stockton, and the coastline south of the Hunter River.
“Council is confident based on its collaborative approach with all stakeholders that our CZMP will be approved by OEH later this year,” a council spokesperson said.
An OEH spokesperson said the government had always expected a slow take up of grants “as councils developed their plans and then commence the more expensive process of undertaking on-ground works”.
“Some councils have been faster at this process and have already applied for funding while others are yet to put in applications,” the spokesperson said.
“Nearly all coastal councils now have an approved plan in place and are eligible to apply for funding under the $83.6 million support package.”