Legal tide turns on erosion victims



Photo: Property owners at Byron Bay’s Belongil Spit are among those who have fought for the right to protect their homes. (Elloise Farrow-Smith: ABC News)


A PhD candidate from the Southern Cross University says beach-front property owners are on shaky ground if they think they have a common-law right to protect their homes.

John Corkill says he’s been reviewing cases dating back to the mid-1800’s from Great Britain and Australia.

He says there is clear evidence that coastal management in the public interest outweighs the rights of private property owners.

“There were always big questions around whether landowners could claim a right to defend against the sea, or compel the Crown to do things to protect their land,” Mr Corkill said.

“It became quite clear to me that there wasn’t a strong footing for this argument.

“Certainly when I looked at cases in Australia, the court has found that these rights don’t exist.

“That’s really the ultimate conclusion of my research, is talking about rights, or old common-law rights from England in the 1800’s is really completely the wrong approach.

“We have a legislative framework that says if you want to build a sea wall you need to get permission from the council and from the Crown, being the NSW Government.”

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