Coastal Management


The Greens NSW believe:

1. The New South Wales coastal zone is a significant natural asset of New South Wales, which must be protected through ecologically sustainable management, the allocation of dedicated resources and a comprehensive reserve urgent planning and consideration irrespective of climate change and sea level rise predictions; 

2. The consequences of global climate change, such as increased storm frequency and intensity of storm surges, sea level rise, coastal inundation, erosion, heavier precipitation and fire threats must be recognised and incorporated into all decisions relating to coastal zone management; 

3. All development, planning and policy decisions for the NSW coastal zone should be based on evidence-based principles of ecologically sustainable development and should include strategic and regional adaptation measures to protect and sustain the NSW coastal zone environment and coastal communities from the worsening impacts of climate change, and consider the impact of risk and threat to human life; 

4. Activities that threaten the natural values of the coast zone, including tourism and other commercial uses, and system, with recognition of the significance and importance of First Nations’ rights to land in the coastal zone and their connection, involvement and management in these resources; 

5. Serious issues in areas of coastal vulnerability are currently occurring and worse-case scenarios in these areas need activities related to offshore gas and petroleum mining must be reviewed, and co-operative arrangements among all levels of government, community and industry must be devised, funded and implemented to protect the ecological sustainability of the coastal environment; 

6. The coordinated management and protection of the coastal zone is needed to encourage and promote orderly and balanced utilisation and conservation of the coastal zone and its natural, cultural and social assets;  

7. A whole-of-catchment management approach should be used to manage the near-shore marine environment, estuaries, Intermittently Closed and Open Lakes and Lagoons (ICOLLs) and wetlands as an integrated system; 

8. Community stakeholders and volunteer groups, and school monitoring programs that contribute to coastal zone planning, management and protection should be encouraged and promoted; 

9. The impact of tourism on our coastal zone needs to be closely monitored and evaluated to ensure that it is ecologically sustainable and protects our natural and cultural assets, while providing opportunities for sensitive eco-tourism in a sustainable tourism industry that provides employment, and gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy and learn about the NSW coast; 

10. The unacceptable threats posed by discharges and the accumulation of waste and debris threaten the environmental integrity of coastal zones as well as the welfare of communities and industries that rely on healthy ecosystems in the coastal zone;  

11. Government funding for innovative and new approaches to waste and discharge accumulation along our coastlines and programs to address the problem must involve all key stakeholders;  

12. Substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions would significantly reduce projected risks to NSW’s the natural environment of the coastal zone and to its communities; 

13. Coastal councils should be provided with financial assistance and resources to oversee their respective Coastal Management Programs in line with their obligations under the Coastal Management Act 2016; 

14. Supporting measures and means to return identified coastal and estuarine lands from private ownership to public space will improve community amenity and the environmental resilience of land in the coastal zone; and 

15. Vehicles other than emergency vehicles or specifically licensed vehicles should be restricted and eventually phased out on beaches, coastal dunes, tidal salt marshes, intertidal areas and surrounding lands including undeveloped headlands. 


The Greens NSW will work towards:

16. Coastal zone management that is informed by both regional and local planning, public review processes and laws that identify the most effective measures to protect the natural, cultural and social values of the coastal zone; 

17. Measures to protect the coastal zone that are informed by scientific research and that account for the different needs of stakeholders with particular regard to and consultation with Traditional Owners, and with consideration of historical storms and impacts; 

18. The creation of a comprehensive and representative reserve system for lands and waters in the coastal zone, with ecologically significant areas reserved as no-take sanctuary zones in marine and national parks or nature reserves; 

19. Implementation of an immediate moratorium on development (including rezonings and subdivisions) or new commercial operations in the coastal zone in those ecosystems identified as being likely to be required for a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system; 

20. National and state coastal zone management objectives, policies, provisions, frameworks and actions that are aligned, and are monitored and specifically updated in line with the progression of climate change impact, with allowance for higher levels of caution to be prescribed in local policies if justified by research, historical learnings and a commitment to protection of natural and cultural assets; 

21. A range of community education and awareness-raising programs that highlight contemporary coastal zone management issues and promote policies addressing those issues, including the risks and threats of human use and impacts; 

22. Legal aid that is available to members of the community taking action in the public interest; 

23. The immediate allocation of adequate funds through The Coastal Lands Protection Scheme to coastal-land-acquisition schemes to permit the public acquisition of significant coastal lands currently in private ownership; 

24. Ensuring that coastal zone lands in public ownership are maintained as public assets and are managed effectively as such, through co-operative arrangements under publicly agreed plans of management; 

25. Review the risk to infrastructure assets and the development of long term relocation strategies to protect publicly owned and operated infrastructure that exists along the coast, such as roads, surf lifesaving clubs, and vital utilities (including electricity and water assets and port facilities) against the impacts of climate change;   

26. Ensuring that any development in coastal cities, towns and villages be underpinned by the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development and takes into full account climate change threats, coastal risks and historical worst-case scenarios;  

27. Supporting communities who responsibly plan through their local governments to effectively adapt to the impacts of climate change by ensuring public funding is not disproportionately or inequitably reallocated to repair the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on private properties that have been developed since New South Wales released its sea-level-rise predictions in October 2009;   

28. Ensuring that any adaptations done by private or public property owners wishing to adapt to the impacts of climate change are consistent with evidence-based scientific advice and do not have a negative impact on amenities or the natural environment; 

29. Protecting the visual amenity of the NSW coastal zone, including by prohibiting the building of high-rise, other infrastructure and/or commercial use such as signage that commercialises the coastline, and other inappropriate development adjacent to the shoreline;   

30. Developing and implementing planning controls that include restrictions on building height and bulk, require quality and character to match existing architecture, are unobtrusive on view scapes, and include buffer zones to protect foreshores and allow for coastal retreat as a result of predicted sea-level rise; 

31. Using scientific evidence to establish which currently occupied areas cannot be maintained in the face of sea-level rise, and managing planned retreat in a way that equitably supports property owners; 

32. Implementing measures to minimise night-time light pollution of beaches, lakes and headlands, caused by the use of both public and private artificial light installations, to avoid impacting roosting birds and other wildlife by limiting foraging, and making them vulnerable to predators, and confusing migrating seabirds;  

33. Promoting the use of integrated water-cycle management including reuse and recycling of rainwater, wastewater, stormwater and sewage; 

34. Requiring local councils and the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure to incorporate Water Sensitive Urban Design principles in all relevant planning instruments; 

35. The introduction of measures to stop polluting industrial, agricultural and domestic discharges from entering water bodies.  

Estuaries, ICOLLs and coastal wetlands 

36. Ensuring that ecologically sustainable catchment management solutions and plans are developed and implemented to protect coastal estuaries;  

37. Ensuring effective ecologically sustainable estuary management that involves the community in all aspects of management decisions;  

38. Ensuring the protection and improvement of water quality in all coastal watercourses and coastal waters, especially ICOLLs, through education, regulation and legislation, including the measurement and monitoring of the condition of coastal and marine water in estuaries through a system of standard indicators;  

39. Development of management and recovery plans for all degraded estuarine environments with associated funding to ensure the plans are implemented; 

40. Funding for specific programs to address acid-sulphate soil management; 

Native vegetation 

41. Placing an immediate moratorium on the clearing of any coastal native vegetation within 5 km of the reach of tidal waters, excepting in the case of qualified asset and infrastructure protection, until effective coastal protection and management legislation is enacted; 

42. Supporting and funding programs and community initiatives for the regeneration, rehabilitation and ongoing management of native vegetation in the coastal zone to improve biodiversity habitat values, visual and recreational amenity, and dune and foreshore stability; 

Sand mining 

43. Not approving any new mineral sand mining developments in the coastal zone or the expansion of existing mines 

44. Consulting with communities affected by sand mining, involving them in decision-making related to developments in their area, and compensating them for the impacts on their amenity; 

45. Making it a requirement that in all impacted coastal zone areas, sand and other mining site restoration, and offset regenerative work, are required to reinstate endemic natural vegetation of high value biodiversity; 

46. Close monitoring and regulation of the current rate of sand extracted for construction purposes, especially in the coastal zone, with a view to phasing out sand mining in the coastal zone and cancelling all existing mining and exploration leases in and adjacent to national parks, nature reserves, and other environmental conservation areas; 

47. Supporting research into alternatives for primary extracted sand in building and other products; 

48. Creating a register of radioactive tailings sites, and monitoring health impacts in an attempt to safeguard against the hazards of radioactive sand contamination;  

Recreational Activities 

49. The restriction of inappropriate high-impact activity in areas adjacent to the coast and associated catchments of environmental protection zones; 

50. Restricting and eventual phasing out vehicles on beaches, dunes and undeveloped headlands, other than emergency vehicles and specifically licensed vehicles; 

51. Limiting the use of certain watercraft in sensitive parts of the coastal zone, and a ban on the use of jet skis and high-powered motorboats in estuaries where there is a demonstrated detrimental impact on social amenity or the environment; 

52. No new boat moorings and marinas in estuaries in New South Wales and provision of funding for the selective closure and removal of those existing marinas and boat moorings that unacceptably damage or threaten low-impact recreational amenity of the estuarine ecosystem; 

53. Securing funding and authority to enforce boating and fishing regulations; 

54. Extending the restriction zones for recreational fishing to end the use of environmentally damaging practices; 

55. An immediate moratorium on beach-haul fishing because it interrupts the breeding activity of certain species of fish. 

56. Related policies – the Coastal Management Policy is related to the following policies and overlaps and fits with these policies and as such should be viewed and implemented in conjunction with these policies.  

  1. Planning and Infrastructure 
  2. Tourism and Visitors 
  3. Marine Environment 
  4. Wetlands 
  5. Biodiversity 
  6. National Parks and Wilderness 
  7. Climate Action and Renewable Energy 
  8. Bushfire Risk Management 


The NSW ‘coastal zone’ is defined as: 

1. three nautical miles seaward of the mainland and offshore islands; 

2. one kilometre landward of the open coast high water mark; 

3. a distance of one kilometre around: all bays, estuaries, coastal lakes, lagoons and islands; and 

4. tidal waters of coastal rivers to the limit of mangroves, or the tidal limit, whichever is closer to the sea.

  1. An estuary is defined as a partially enclosed coastal body of water that is a place of transition from saltwater to freshwater, from tidal to non-tidal, and from wet to dry.
  2. Sustainability 

Ecologically sustainable development (ESD) is an important concept in environmental law

ESD is a long-standing and internationally recognised concept. The concept has been affirmed by the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development and has been included in over 60 pieces of NSW legislation.

Australia’s National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (1992) defines ecologically sustainable development as: ‘using, conserving and enhancing the community’s resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased.’ 

ESD is also defined in the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991 (NSW) and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth), and is referred to in many other environmental laws.

ESD requires the effective integration of economic, environmental, social and equity considerations in decision-making processes. ESD aims to provide for the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991 (NSW) defines the principles of ESD:

1. The precautionary principle.

If there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation. Public and private decisions should be guided by careful evaluation to avoid serious or irreversible damage to the environment wherever practicable, and an assessment of the risk-weighted consequences of various options.

2. Inter-generational equity.

The present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment are maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations,

3. Conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity

Conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration in environmental planning and decision-making processes. Biodiversity refers to the variety of all life. Environmental and species impact statements are one way that this principle is enacted.

4. Improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms

Environmental factors should be included in the valuation of assets and services, such as:

• polluter pays – those who generate pollution and waste should bear the cost of containment, avoidance or abatement,

• the users of goods and services should pay prices based on the full life cycle of costs of providing goods and services, including the use of natural resources and assets and the ultimate disposal of any waste,

• environmental goals, having been established, should be pursued in the most cost effective way, by establishing incentive structures, including market mechanisms, that enable those best placed to maximise benefits or minimise costs to develop their own solutions and responses to environmental problems.

These principles are implemented at the State level through a number of decision-making processes, including the regulation of pollution, and development assessment and approval regimes.

For more information about how the principles of ESD are implemented at the national level, visit the Australian Environment Department.

Source: Environmental Defenders Office -

Last revised August 2023.