Coastal and estuary management


Stretching over 165kms, the coastline is one of Shoalhaven’s greatest assets. Our community values the remarkable coastline for its environmental, social, cultural and economic benefits. Our coastline faces many challenges that have the potential to affect how we enjoy living by the water. Sustainable management of the coastline is a key priority for Council to ensure protection for future generations.

Coastal Management Programs (CMPs)

Council is currently developing Coastal Management Programs (CMPs) to manage the Shoalhaven’s coastline and estuaries into the future.

What is a Coastal Management Program? 

A CMP is a long-term strategy for managing the coastal regions. A CMP provides a framework and strategy that will be used to manage our coastline and estuaries. The CMPs will consider: 

  • Historic events
  • Current conditions
  • Future trends including population growth, environmental conditions, and climate change

Through five (5) stages of development, each CMP will identify coastal management issues, the actions needed to address these issues, outline how and when each management action will be implemented, the associated costs, and potential funding mechanisms. Stages 1-4 develop and build the action plan in close consultation with the community and Stage 5 will be implementing the 10-year long term actions outlined within the plan.

Why is Council creating Coastal Management Programs? 

CMPs are required in accordance with the Coastal Management Act (2016) for our estuaries and coastline, to replace the pre-existing Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMP), developed under the old Coastal Protection Act (1979), and Estuary Management Plans.

The CMPs will be developed and guided by the NSW State Government's Coastal Management Manual.

What are the five stages of a Coastal Management Program?

Stage 1: Identify the scope

The first step is to identify the scope of a CMP through a Scoping Study (Stage 1). The Scoping Study incorporates local priority management issues, reviews existing management plans, identifies information gaps, and identifies how consultation and engagement should take place during preparation of the remaining stage of a CMP.

Stage 2: Determine risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities

Stage 2 includes gathering technical data, community consultation and addressing the gaps identified through the existing first-pass risk assessment. The information collected will assess, characterise and summarise local coastal/estuary processes and hazards to establish an understanding of coastal processes, hazards and risks they pose to the study area which will inform decision-making within Stage 3.

Stage 3: Identify and evaluate options

Stage 3 includes the confirmation of the strategic direction, identifying and evaluating potential management actions, and further community and stakeholder consultation regarding identifying coastal management actions and determining their viability. Stage 3 will include the development of a draft business plan that will include strategic direction, potential management actions, feasibility evaluation, identify and evaluation of management options, maps and scheduling.

Stage 4: Prepare, exhibit, finalise, certify and adopt the CMP

This stage involves preparing a draft CMP that will be open for public exhibition over a minimum period of 28 days. Following public exhibition, a final coastal management program is to be prepared that incorporates any necessary amendments as a result of submissions by the general community or public authorities. The CMP will need to meet all statutory and mandatory requirements which will then be submitted to the Minister for Local Government for certification.

Stage 5: Implement, monitor, evaluate and report

Stage 5 begins once the CMP has been certified by the Minister for Local Government, allowing Council to begin working collaboratively with our stakeholders, contractors and Government agencies to implement, monitor and evaluate the management actions within the finalised CMP.

What stage is Council up to?

Council have successfully completed Stage 1 – a Citywide Scoping Study. The Shoalhaven Citywide Scoping Study (Stage 1) has been successfully completed and adopted by Council at the Strategy and Assets Committee meeting June 9 2020, view:

Using the scoping study, Council has been able to prepare and plan for the scope of future works and plans associated with the identified CMPs for all of Council’s coastline and estuaries. With Stage 1 now complete, Council is now progressing towards Stage 2 for the localities outlined below.

How many Coastal Management Programs is Council preparing? 

The Scoping Study recommended that with the 40 beaches and 11 lakes and estuaries that Council manages, our CMPs should be divided into smaller, manageable programs to address the specific priorities and issues within each area.

There will be Coastal Management Programs for the areas below: 

Council is working collaboratively to start and initiate these important programs for each community and has so far received CMP funding for Lake Conjola, Open Coast and Jervis Bay, Sussex Inlet, St. Georges Basin, Berrara Creek and Swan Lake and the Lower Shoalhaven River.

CMPs will be developed with the guidance and input from our Coastal Management Program Advisory Committees.

How to Get Involved

We encourage you to take part in the development of the CMPs by clicking on the areas above which will take you to the respective Get Involved page where you can subscribe to 'Stay Informed' where you will receive the latest progress updates and notifications of future engagement opportunities.

For more information on Coastal Management Programs visit the NSW State Government website.

Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP)

In 2018, Council developed and adopted a Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP), prepared in accordance with the statutory requirements set out in the NSW Guidelines for the Preparation of Coastal Zone Management Plans (DECCW, 2013) and the previous Coastal Protection Act 1979.

The CZMP was developed to prepare, protect and preserve the Shoalhaven coastline from future coastal processes and changing climate.

The CZMP set the plan for coastal management within the Shoalhaven City Council Local Government Area (LGA). Utilising the implementation schedule, (Section 4.2 of the CZMP) Council is on track to complete or have significantly progressed all 52 short-term actions by the end of 2023.

The CZMP will shortly be replaced by the development of the Coastal Management Programs under the new Coastal Management Act (2016) 

Monitoring our coastline

Council undertakes surveillance and monitoring of 165 km of coastline, extending from Seven Mile Beach to Durras North.

Collaborating with UNSW’s Water Research Laboratory team and NSW Department of Planning and Environment, Council has installed eight CoastSnap monitoring stations across the Shoalhaven to help improve our accuracy and ability to monitor the long-term changes of our coastline.

View our coastline

What is CoastSnap?

CoastSnap is a low-cost citizen science beach monitoring technology that enables smartphones to be powerful coastal monitoring devices. 

The aim of CoastSnap is to harness the information collected by our community into obtaining a better understanding of how coastlines are changing through time, whether it be due to: 

  • Predicted sea level rises
  • Extreme storms
  • Large tides, heavy rainfall and flooding

This information is used to improve the way coastlines are managed into the future. 

Our beaches are constantly evolving and by contributing a photo you will help record short and long-term beach erosion and recovery. Over time, CoastSnap will help us better understand beach processes and factors that cause changes to the environment, allowing us to better prepare for the future and to continue to work effectively with the community.

Financial and technical support for this project is being provided by the NSW Government through its Coastal Management Program.

Learn More about CoastSnap

How CoastSnap works

The CoastSnap images are analysed using markers along the beach to precisely measure shoreline location on any given day. These photos can be compiled to produce time-lapse videos that capture shoreline position and beach width as it evolves through time. 

The information is then analysed by the CoastSnap app to enable quick alerts of any changes, which will improve our ability to forecast changes and improve our conservation measures.

How to contribute to CoastSnap

  1. Place phone on its side (landscape orientation) in the cradle  
  2. Take a photo with no zoom  
  3. Share your photo using the free CoastSnap app on your smartphone
    Download for Android | Download for Apple 
  4. Select 'update spot' or post to social media using the site’s hashtag 

What happens to my Snap?

Your CoastSnap photos are an accurate record of the shoreline and amount of sand on the beach at that moment. Your Snap will be used to map the way the coast changes over time at the specific beach location. 

Your Snap will become part of a community database that will help us discover how different beaches respond to changing ocean conditions.

We have also used your Snaps to create timelapse videos which show how the shoreline moves with changing wave conditions and how much sand is on the beach. You can view the timelapse videos on Council’s You Tube channel

CoastSnap locations

You can find the eight CoastSnap stations at: 

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Coastal risk development controls

Council’s development controls are continually being reviewed, amended and updated to ensure current and future developments are managed sustainably.

Properties exposed to current and future coastal hazards within the Shoalhaven are currently managed through provisions outlined in the Shoalhaven Development Control Plan (DCP) 2014:

And Shoalhaven Local Environmental Plan (LEP) 2014:

You can view the current coastal hazard mapping on our interactive map:

Foreshore management

The Shoalhaven coastline faces many challenges including foreshore management and protection. Council manages 40 beaches and more than 220 formal beach access tracks in accordance with the Foreshore Reserve policy. Council is aware there are also many other informal beach access tracks across the City. These tracks are not on Council’s asset register and as such, are outside the remit of Council’s asset management systems and budgets.

What are foreshores?

Foreshores allow the community to access the water and are a highly valued part of the Shoalhaven by locals and visitors alike. Ecologically healthy foreshores, that include beaches, dune ecosystems and riverbanks, are characterised by an abundance of bird life, presence of native animals, a diversity of native flora and an absence of degrading factors such as weeds, erosion and rubbish.

Dunes may contain vegetation communities of conservation significance and prime habitat for threatened species.

What are the key issues for our foreshores?

The challenge for Council is how to manage resources to meet the broad recreation needs of the community and visitors and to ensure that such enjoyment does not result in long-term degradation of these highly sensitive dune systems.


Many of us live near foreshores and many dune systems and foreshores have been weakened through development and vegetation clearing from urban development. We need to be mindful of our close proximity to these natural areas.


Beaches and dune systems are under threat from erosion from waves and stormwater, likely to be worsened by climate change.

Vegetation loss

Damage to dune vegetation (vandalism and/or natural causes) and spread of weeds.

Informal beach access tracks

Informal access tracks increase rate of erosion and wind funnelling effects that can result in loss of sand from the beach and sand inundation into homes as well as pathways for wave runup during storms which further increases the erosion risk to coastal properties.

Why is managing our foreshores important?

With widespread acceptance among the scientific community of the reality of climate change, including the threat of sea level rise, the significance of the role of these critically important areas as buffers for foreshore protection is growing.

Climate resilience

Vegetated foreshores help resist erosion during storms. Waves erode the sand stored in our dune systems, it is then transported offshore where it forms bars that break waves, dissipating their energy before reaching the shoreline. A lack of a healthy store of sand and established vegetation in a dune system worsens erosion at the shoreline and increases the distance inland that waves can penetrate and land can be inundated.

Property protection

Healthy, vegetated coastal foreshores provide protection to private property and public infrastructure from severe storms by absorbing energy from storm surges and large swells and acting as a buffer, slowing down the process of erosion.

Cultural significance

Foreshore reserves may contain tangible or intangible features that are culturally significant to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. Protection of such features is an objective of the Shoalhaven Local Environmental Plan (LEP) either as heritage items or relics.

Shorebird habitats

Shoalhaven’s foreshore reserves are important habitat to a number of shorebirds, including:

  • The beach nesting Hooded Plover (endangered)
  • Little Tern (endangered)
  • Pied Oystercatcher (vulnerable)
  • Sooty Oystercatcher (vulnerable) which prefers to nest on offshore islands

Major declines in the population and distribution of all four species are attributed to a combination of natural and human-induced threats, including habitat loss, flooding of nests, accidental trampling by humans and off-road vehicles. 

Want to find out how you can protect shorebirds? 


For more information view:

What is Council doing to protect our foreshores?

Council is currently managing and mitigating these key issues to improve accessibility and safety whilst keeping the natural amenity that our Coastline provides for the Shoalhaven community and its visitors through the following actions:


Council monitors our coastline frequently to ensure maintenance and risk mitigation are appropriate to the current conditions.


Formal beach access tracks are upgraded, maintained, rehabilitated and consolidated to improve foreshore resilience and provide safe and accessible foreshore access.


Council has recently undertaken an Asset Management Strategy that assessed and inspected the current conditions of the 250 individual Shoalhaven beach and foreshore access tracks. This assessment will help Council implement appropriate formal access track maintenance across the Shoalhaven in a strategic manner.

Tree vandalism

Council treats tree and vegetation vandalism seriously and closely monitors and responds promptly to acts and reports of vegetation vandalism. If you see someone damaging or removing flora or fauna on public land please contact Ranger Services as soon as possible or our After Hours Emergencies.

To learn more about vegetation vandalism view:

Nature Assisted Beach Enhancement (NABE)

NABE, otherwise known as beach scraping, is a simple, low-cost method for raising low points in dunes and accelerating natural beach recovery. Beach scraping is removal of material from the lower part of the beach onto the higher part of the beach (or at the dune toe). Beach scraping is beneficial in protecting dunes against erosion on a short-term basis and will be undertaken when practically necessary to protect our foreshores.

How can I help protect our foreshores?

There is a demonstrated commitment of so many residents through programs such as Bushcare, to help enhance the resilience of our foreshores. Council aims to further the increased collaboration with Shoalhaven residents as community contribution significantly strengthens the protection of these areas in the long term.

  • You can take part in building sustainable dune systems through Council’s Bushcare and Parkcare programmes
  • Use formal access tracks, one with a Council sign at the beginning of the track, when visiting our beaches as these tracks have been designed to sustain high levels of foot traffic without damaging the dunes. These tracks are managed and maintained by Council to provide safe and accessible foreshore access
  • Exercise your pet in designated areas only, have on-leash or effective control as required and always remember to clean-up after your pet to preserve the amenity and health of the area for all beach users
  • Maintain a wide distance from beach nesting shorebirds, as if they feel threatened they may abandon their eggs or young

Nature Assisted Beach Enhancement (NABE) Works

What is NABE?

Nature Assisted Beach Enhancement (NABE), sometimes called “beach scraping”, is the mechanical movement of sand from the lower part of the beach onto the higher part of the beach or sand dune. NABE mimics the natural accumulation of sand following a beach erosion (e.g. storm) event. The benefit of NABE is it can be undertaken quickly, over a matter of days, while natural accumulation processes may take months, or even years to rebuild after a major storm event.

NABE is a relatively simple and cost-effective management tool for raising low points in dunes by accelerating the natural process of dune re-building. It is used by Council to improve beach condition following storm events and to protect assets by building sand dune elevation and encouraging ongoing accretion by then revegetating the system.

NABE is beneficial in protecting dunes against coastal erosion on a short to medium-term basis and is undertaken as necessary to protect our foreshores. NABE is a successful, quick-response mechanism utilised to prevent any further damage from subsequent storms over a short timeframe.

NABE may also be a useful coastal adaptation method in the short to medium-term to reduce the risk to property and infrastructure from coastal hazards. NABE does not entirely eliminate the threat of a major storm event to adjacent infrastructure, but it will reduce the severity of the threat, by rebuilding the natural buffer between infrastructure and coastal erosion processes, such as wave attack.

It is also important to note that NABE is not a long-term coastal adaptation solution to address coastal erosion and shoreline recession, especially under rising sea level threat.

Have NABE works been done before?

NABE is used along many coastlines, within Australia and internationally to protect assets and rehabilitate foreshores. NABE has been completed many times in the Shoalhaven, particularly after large storm events such as East Coast Lows (ECLs).

Some beaches that have benefited from NABE include:

  • Narrawallee
  • Mollymook
  • Callala Bay
  • Burrill Lake foreshore

What happens after NABE works are complete?

Beach accessway management, fencing, dune rehabilitation/reprofiling and revegetation may be undertaken to further stabilise and enhance the dune system following the scraping works.

Stabilisation of the dune and re-establishment of vegetation is important to build resilience to erosion and enhance the effectiveness of the NABE activity. Council may also fence off a section of the dune area to limit public access to enhance protection of the newly created dune and its vegetation.

The local volunteer Bushcare groups work tirelessly alongside Council to take care of the dunes in the Shoalhaven. Keeping our dunes clean, removing weeds and planting native species. You can get involved in helping maintain these dune systems here: