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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald

State Labor at sea on long term solution for Stockton

Tim Crakanthorp and former Labor leader Jodi McKay met Stockton residents in February 2020. Mr Crakanthorp has advocated for the Stockton community over many years. Picture by Jonathan Carroll.

Pressure is mounting on state Labor to commit to funding a long-term solution to the Stockton Beach erosion crisis.

The party's leadership is busy attempting to woo voters in the state's marginal seats that it desperately needs to win if it is to form government next March. Meanwhile it is yet to announce any plans to address one of the state's acute coastal erosion hotspots, which happens to be one of its safest seats.

The lack of clear policy comes despite state MP Tim Crakanthorp's advocacy for the beachside suburb.

The party's apparent policy void on Stockton was thrown into the spotlight on Wednesday when federal Newcastle Labor MP Sharon Claydon and Newcastle Labor Lord Mayor announced a joint $6.2million funding package to renourish the southern end of the beach with 300,000 cubic metres of sand.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and federal Labor MP Sharon Claydon talking with Stockton locals on Wednesday. Picture by Simone DePeak.

The money will also pay for investigations and approvals for additional sand sources from the north arm of the Hunter River and in the Stockton Bight which were identified in the NSW Government's 2021 Stockton Offshore Sand Exploration Project.

Hunter Central Coast Development Corporation is the project manager for the grant.

City of Newcastle, which has committed more than $27.5 million towards erosion stabilisation on the beach, is presently in a dispute with the state government over who should apply for the offshore mining licence to extract sand.

It argues that offshore extraction is not the core business of local government because it lacks the expertise or capabilities to manage such a program.

However the government, through Geosciences NSW, already currently holds an exploration licence for Stockton.

But it argues that it cannot apply for the licence, due to a conflict of interest because it is also the mining regulator.

Ms Claydon and Ms Nelmes voiced their frustration on Wednesday at the state government's refusal to take ownership of the project and develop a state-wide approach to sustainable sand nourishment to assist all NSW councils.

However, with a state election less than six months away, state Labor is also yet to commit to offshore dredging as a long term solution.

In a statement, Mr Crakanthorp said Wednesday's announcement was an example of what happened when different levels of government worked together.

"I have been speaking with the Deputy Premier's office this week, and now that this initial sand nourishment is locked in, the Stockton Beach Taskforce will be sitting down again to progress the longer-term solution," he said.

"The way to fix Stockton Beach is through collaboration and the Stockton community should not have to wait for the outcome of the election to keep moving forward."

Meanwhile, Ms Nelmes met with Planning Minister Anthony Roberts on Thursday in an attempt to resolve the mining licence issue.

Ms Nelmes said the minister was supportive of a government agency becoming the project's proponent.

"He's been collaborative; he sees Stockton as a good opportunity for a pilot for the government to provide and efficient and integrated delivery of offshore sand extraction to combat beach erosion in Stockton and other locations in NSW," she said.

A spokesman for the minister said the government was working collaboratively with the council. Discussions were ongoing regarding who will hold the licence.

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