This chapter explores key issues relating to coastal erosion and consequent damage to private property in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. While damage to shorelines from rising sea levels and storm surges applies worldwide, evidence suggests that Australia is especially prone. While the Commonwealth Government plays a minimal role, law and policy lie in the hands of the States. Implementation, however, is generally delegated to local government, which suffers from fiscal paucity. At the same time, it is the most accessible level of governance for citizens to approach. Local councils are at the forefront of political attack when landholders suffer from devastating loss of private property. This is illustrated by the case study of Old Bar, a coastal settlement located in the mid-north of NSW.

A major issue is the sheer complexity of the law dealing with coastal management. In particular, the planning system is complex and rigid. It focuses on regulatory land-use zones relating to current rather than disappearing land. Greater elasticity is needed to embrace creative approaches with close community involvement. The State Government must play a stronger role to financially assist councils while supporting strategies based on apolitical expertise. This can only boost the critical role played by local government.