Community's plea to save sand dune

Native vegetation plays an important role in stabilising our coastal landscapes by protecting sand dunes from wind erosion. Vegetation can also trap windblown sand to help build up the dunes and provides food or habitat for native animals and migratory birds, yet Central Coast Council seems to determined to destroy a large swathe of sand dune vegetation at Umina.

Aerial view of proposed work area.

18 November 2022


THE Central Coast Council must take seriously its obligations under the NSW Environmental Protection and Assessment Act (EPAA) and complete a comprehensive Review of Environmental Factors (REF) before commencing any work to remove sand dune vegetation over an area 3 metres by 80 metres at Umina Beach adjacent to Sydney Avenue, according to the Community Environment Network (CEN).


“CEN wrote to Council last week to request a copy of its REF under Part 5 of the EPAA after we were alerted by the Ettymalong Landcare Group about plans to remove the hind dune vegetation to upgrade a car park and create a shared pathway,” said CEN Chair, Mr Gary Chestnut.


“We await Council’s response to our letter but wholeheartedly support the Peninsula community’s stance that the dune should be protected,” Mr Chestnut said.


“The proposed work would result in the removal of the hind dune, associated trees, shrubs, ground cover, important habitat, and reduce the resilience of the dune system which is already vulnerable to erosion and tidal inundation,” he said.


“This is an example of a project that does not appear to have given any consideration to the worsening impacts of sea level rise, nor to the environmental significance of the location for habitat, as a seed source, and as a buffer to an adjacent remnant of ecologically endangered Umina Coastal Sandplain Woodland (UCSW).


“This is also an example of a proposal to destroy dune and habitat that cannot be “offset” as its environmental value is unique to its specific location.


“The proposed work must be assessed by a qualified coastal management expert. There should be both a flora and fauna assessment. The fauna assessment must determine if there are any impacts on local echidna, mammals, reptiles, invertebrates, and nesting birds.”


In respect to native flora, the proposed work would remove Coastal Sandplain Banksia scrub including mature and juvenile Banksia integrifolia, Allocasuarina littoralis and Tuckeroo trees along with native mid-story and ground covers including Acacia longifolia, Breynia oblongifolia , Lomandra, Stepahnia japonica, and native grape vine.

Diagram of proposed work area.

CEN is aware that pursuant to Section 7 (2)(c) of the Coastal Management Act 2016, it defines beach dunes as an area of coastal vulnerability that is subject to a coastal hazard.


As the sand dune at Umina is defined as an area that is subject to a coastal hazard the REF that Council should have prepared must address clause 2.9 of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Resilience and Hazards) 2021.


Under this policy: “Development consent must not be granted to development on land that is within the area identified as ‘coastal vulnerability area on the Coastal Vulnerability Area Map unless the consent authority is satisfied that— (b) the proposed development— (i) is not likely to alter coastal processes to the detriment of the natural environment or other land’.


“Section 2.10 of the same SEPP says ‘1) Development consent must not be granted to development on land that is within the coastal environment area unless the consent authority has considered whether the proposed development is likely to cause an adverse impact on the following— (a) the integrity and resilience of the biophysical, hydrological (surface and groundwater) and ecological environment, (b) coastal environmental values and natural coastal processes,... and (d) marine vegetation, native vegetation and fauna and their habitats, undeveloped headlands and rock platforms,.....’


“As a consequence, CEN supports the Peninsula community’s position that the work should not go ahead until Council has addressed all legislative requirements.”


According to Mr Chestnut, Part 5 of the EPAA determines how Council must complete work on Council-owned or managed land.


“We are certain Council is aware that commencement of work without, at the very least, a Part 5 Assessment or REF would be in breach of the EPAA.


“It is our understanding that the works will be undertaken in accordance with clause 2.10 & 2.11 of SEPP Resilience and Hazards and the Coastal Management Act 2016 along with a review of Broken Bay Beaches Coastal Management Plan.


“As such we await further information from Council about how those instruments in any way abrogate Council’s responsibilities under the EPAA and the BCA in relation to protection of native flora and fauna.


“We have already reviewed the proposed design of the car park works adjacent to Sydney Ave near the entry to the Umina Caravan Park and support Ettymalong Creek Landcare’s objections to these works.


“Council’s own adopted Management Plan for the precinct says: ‘All development of areas within the recreational precinct should give due consideration to possible impacts on the adjoining UCSW EEC’.


“CEN hopes the Council accepts the community’s concerns about the integrity of the dunes at Umina Beach and carefully considers alternative solutions that enhances and improves the sustainability of the dunes.”


Why coastal vegetation plays an important role in protecting sand dunes.


Primary vegetation, such as grasses and creepers found in the sand dune, can trap sand to build up dunes and reduce the extent of beach erosion. Secondary vegetation, such as shrubs and small trees help to stabilise the foredune and deflect the wind up and over the foredune. Tertiary vegetation, such as taller shrubs and trees found in the hind dune, further elevate the wind and provide protection for suburban plants.


Root systems help stabilise and secure sand to reduce the likelihood and extent of erosion during extreme weather events, becaus sand that builds up around vegetation can help replenish the beach after sudden erosion events. Native coastal vegetation can tolerate high winds, salt spray and sand blasting and also provides food or nesting areas for animals and migratory birds.


Damaging coastal vegetation is tantamount to environmental vandalism. It impacts the stability of sand dunes and their important role in our coastal environment. If an area of vegetation is damaged or removed, it makes that area more susceptible to erosion. This can lead to a ‘blow out’ or gap in the dune. This gap can quickly grow and erode the rest of the dune system, impacting nearby properties and infrastructure.

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