Group calls for stop to development on coastal wetlands

A community group trying to protect southeastern New Brunswick coastline is calling for a permanent ban on new development on any coastal wetlands, marshes, dunes or projected flood plains along the Northumberland Strait.

Community group proposes steps for protecting Northumberland Strait coastline

Community members gather in Pointe-du-Chêne on Thursday to hear recommendations from SWWAT report. (Maeve McFadden/CBC News)

A community group trying to protect southeastern New Brunswick coastline is calling for a permanent ban on new development on any coastal wetlands, marshes, dunes or projected flood plains along the Northumberland Strait.

The group that goes by SWWAT, for Save our Wetlands, Waters and Tourism, released a report in Pointe-du-Chêne on Thursday.

In addition to the development ban, the group wants a climate change fund, which would be used to purchase and manage wetlands along the Northumberland Strait as well as restore wetlands that have been destroyed.

The group also asks that the province acknowledge the threat of climate change and sea-level rise projections on properties along the coastline.

The report and recommendations came out of a two-day conference in Shediac in April, when local residents, business owners and elected officials gathered to discuss issues related to development and coastal protection. 

The Save our Wetlands, Waters and Tourism group called for the creation of a climate change fund, which would be used to buy and protect wetlands on the coast. (Maeve McFadden/CBC News)

"Coastal zones are very important," said Michael Chadwick, an adjunct professor in the environmental studies department at the University of Moncton, who spoke at the conference and was present when the report was released.

"Most people don't appreciate it because most of the productivity is underground and unseen. It essentially feeds our fisheries. They're growing at the same rate as the sea level is rising.

"So, they're protecting our areas."

Chadwick said he lives near the coast so is interested in seeing the recommendations, including a ban on coastal development, brought to life.

There's money in protection

"I would argue that we could have a plan for the coast, which would be to protect it and then appreciate it, which could be the engine of our economy, as opposed to putting expensive homes right on the shore, which are used a couple of weeks a year because people have a lot of money.

"I don't buy that."

He suggested the province allows building permits in these areas because it wants the property tax revenue that development brings.

"Yet still, we are losing the value of these areas." 

Janet Gordon, a cottage owner in Pointe-du-Chêne called the report important and said the province has to move beyond expressing a policy view to actually doing something.

"Now we must move forward with regulations," she said. "But they often stop at this point. And I think there's a lot of different pressures, so there really has to be really clear laws, regulations and these need to be enforced."

Gordon plans to help make coastal development an election issue in the September provincial election.

"We hope to have a meeting with candidates and with the community, ask them questions, discuss these issues to see what their positions are."

Two weeks ago, the group requested a meeting with Andrew Harvey, minister of environment and local government, to discuss the report, but it didn't hear back.,,,,,,,,,,