Coastal management

We support councils and communities in managing the open coast, estuaries and coastal lakes.

The NSW Government's vision is for thriving and resilient communities living and working on a healthy coast, now and into the future.

The NSW Government has established a new coastal management framework to manage the coastal environment in an ecologically sustainable way, for the social, cultural and economic well-being of the people of New South Wales.

A dynamic coast

The coast is one of our greatest assets. It is a diverse landscape with unique natural features, values and resources that support our way of life. The coast is a vital economic zone and is home to nearly 85% of the NSW population.

The coastal zone includes coastal waters, rocky and sandy shorelines, dunes and coastal lakes. It is shaped by complex interactions of waves, tides and currents, which result in erosion, deposition and inundation of coastal land.

These hazards create risks to the coastal environment and to coastal communities. Climate change is a further factor in modifying coastal processes, hazards and risks.

The coastal landscape is also under increasing pressure from growing population and urban settlements, industrial and commercial activity, tourism and recreation.

Sustainable management of the coast often involves balancing a diverse range of challenges and opportunities for the social, cultural and economic wellbeing of the people of NSW.

Local councils' role

Local councils have a central role in managing the coast. They prepare a coastal management program (CMP) that sets out the long-term strategy for management of the coastal zone in its area.

A CMP identifies coastal management issues in the area, the actions required to address these issues, and how and when those actions will be implemented.

Local councils also identify the costs of the actions, proposed cost-sharing arrangements and viable funding mechanisms to ensure delivery.

Once certified by the Minister, a local council implements the actions in a CMP through its strategic management systems and land-use planning instruments.

Our role

The NSW Government, through the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), provides oversight of the State's coastal management program. OEH is the first point of contact for local councils planning to prepare and implement a CMP.

OEH will continue to work in partnership with councils and local communities to manage the coast.

OEH can help councils preparing a CMP with the following data and technical advice:

  • wave data and data on historical coastline changes
  • information on coastal and estuarine processes, sediment cells and coastal geomorphology/coastal engineering
  • information on coastal hazard and risk assessment
  • advice on ecosystem health and habitat mapping.

OEH administers the Coastal and Estuary Grants program that provides funding for councils to prepare and implement their coastal management program.

Community role

It is recommended that councils consult with local communities during the preparation of a CMP.

Local communities may also be involved in the implementation of a CMP, through participation in council advisory groups, on-ground works, monitoring, or providing feedback on satisfaction with performance.

It is recommended that members of the community proposing development in the coastal zone consider the requirements of the Coastal Management Act 2016 (CM Act), the State Environmental Planning Policy (Coastal Management) 2018 (CM SEPP), the relevant CMP and any associated coastal zone emergency action subplan.