After many years of trying, we were able to convince Port Stephens Council to host a NSW Coastal Conference. Councillor John Nell paved the way for the conference this year held at Shoal Bay on the shores of Port Stephens. Along with Philippa Hill and other members of the organising committee, including representatives of government agencies, SCCG and ACS. John was at long last able to achieve his ambition of bringing delegates to this amazing part of the NSW coast to attend the annual conference, the 26th.

The Port Stephens area means a lot to me especially in terms of my development as a coastal scientist. As a teenager I visited Nelson Bay and was excited by what I saw. Given the chance to undertake an honours topic in coastal geomorphology at Sydney University in 1960, I elected to go back and start field work on sand dune history. The area from Newcastle to Myall Lakes was inspirational and remains so. But I had to start somewhere and it was around the location of this conference; in fact my first public talk on geomorphic history was given in August 1960 in the same venue as this conference. So it was an honour this year to present a paper on 200,000 years of history based that work and those of others at Shoal Bay.

NSW is blessed with a coastal fraternity that each year gathers at a regional location (never Sydney) and considers latest developments in coastal management, science and policy. Since 2006 we have been ably supported by East Coast Conferences. Around 270 attend each conference to meet and greet, to hear keynote and technical presentations, take part in field trips and attend sponsored reception and dinner. I have the honour each year to present conference awards and provide a conference wrap up. This year followed the same pattern.

In recent years we have announcements made at the conference concerning progress in Stage 2 of NSW Coastal Reforms. This year the Hon. Scott Macdonald MLC representing the Government, opened the conference and made two announcements. One, that the next round of coast and estuary grant funding was now open (see OEH web site), and two, he was able to name the new NSW Coastal Council as established under the Coastal Management Act 2016. He spoke of the desire of Government to work with this new Council of which I have been appointed Chair. There was no announcement on when the Act will be promulgated, but he did comment on the purpose of the new SEPP and Manual, the new funding arrangements, and the opportunity to link the new MEMA strategy to the implementation of local council’s Coastal Management Programs. Later in the program I was invited to offer a brief account of the journey of the Coastal Expert Panel in the development of the reforms.

I am always impressed with the quality of keynotes at our conference. This year was no exception. The incredible photography of David Harasti of local marine wonders and the passion of the Woromi Land Council CEO, Andrew Smith, was something to behold. I am also grateful to Raewyn Peart for the synthesis of New Zealand’s coastal issues, and I need to place on record my great appreciation for her tremendous work with the EDS in NZ.

In my wrap up on Friday I was able to reflect further on just how important this conference is on progressing coastal management in NSW. Each year we have willing sponsors and exhibitors supporting delegates with information; we have many new speakers offering papers and posters, some for the first time, while there are those who come back to demonstrate developments in their areas of expertise; we have the opportunity to inspect coastal sites that inform us of new and at times old legacy issues that managers confront; and perhaps most important, we are able to mix together and learn more from each other about how we are meeting the challenges of coastal management in NSW.

So next year we are off to another council which has yet to host a NSW Coastal Conference. Bega Council will be our host and the conference will be held at Merimbula. This will be a marvellous opportunity to indulge ourselves in the wonders of the far South Coast and to see just how far the Coastal Reforms have progressed.

Bruce Thom

Words by Prof Bruce Thom. Please respect the author’s thoughts and reference appropriately: (c) ACS, 2017, posted 16 November 2017, for correspondence about this blog post please email