Urban and coastal planning
Chapter 2 provided a high-level overview of how warming of the climate
system is projected to result in various changes, such as changes in
temperature, precipitation, sea level and the frequency and intensity of
extreme weather events. This chapter will consider how managing these risks
through appropriate planning frameworks and decisions can support effective
climate change adaptation.
Examples of responses
In response to the threats climate change presents for coastal regions,
various state governments have revised coastal planning strategies, policies
and programs to help improve the resilience of coastal communities. For
- In New South Wales, the state government is reforming planning arrangements
for coastal communities, and the object of the Coastal Management Act 2016 (NSW) specifically notes the need to 'mitigate current and future risks from
coastal hazards, taking into account the effects of climate change'. The Government has released a draft Coastal Management State Environmental
Planning Policy and a draft coastal management manual and toolkit. In addition, between 2014 and 2016, Local Government NSW and the NSW
Office of Environment and Heritage administered the Building Resilience to
Climate Change grants program designed 'to address identified climate change
risks and vulnerabilities facing NSW councils'.
- In Victoria, the Victorian Coastal Strategy 2014 outlines
the Government's policy on managing coastal environments, which includes
benchmark requirements to plan for sea level rise of not less than 0.8 metres
by 2100 and to plan for not less than 0.2 metres over current 1 in 100 year
flood levels by 2040 for urban infill areas. A ministerial direction and planning practice note specifically address
planning to manage coastal hazards and the coastal impacts of climate change. Evidence given by multiple Victorian local governments indicated that their
planning activities are based on the 0.8 metres by 2100 and 0.2 metres by
2040 sea level rise scenarios.
In Queensland, the state government and the Local Government
Association of Queensland (LGAQ) have developed programs to improve how local
governments manage climate change. The Queensland Climate Resilient Councils
program seeks to strengthen internal council decision-making processes to improve
climate change responses. The QCoast2100 grants program provides assistance to identify
vulnerabilities and risks associated with future coastal hazards.
- In Western Australia, the state government issued the WA Coastal
Zone Strategy in August 2017. On managing coastal erosion and inundation, the
Strategy notes that planning policy seeks to avoid development in at-risk
areas, identifies the need to consider planned retreat, envisages design
approaches to accommodate risks and outlines when coastal protection works
could be considered.
The Tasmanian Government provided the following evidence regarding its
adaptation and resilience efforts for communities in coastal areas:
Since 2011, the Tasmanian Government has been working with
communities vulnerable to coastal hazards through the Tasmanian
Coastal Adaptation Pathways (TCAP) project. The key aim of TCAP is to raise
awareness of coastal hazards and partner with communities to manage risks into
Through TCAP, the Government has worked in partnership with
councils in 11 of the communities at risk from coastal erosion and inundation
including, most recently, the municipalities of Hobart City, Huon Valley, Kingborough
and Glamorgan Spring Bay.
Following on from TCAP, the Government is committed to
providing further guidance and support to coastal managers on understanding and
managing coastal hazards to build Tasmania's climate resilience.
The Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand (EIANZ) referred
to the Sydney Coastal Councils Group's mapping of areas of risk of coastal
inundation. The EIANZ submitted that these maps use 'sophisticated modelling
together with Councils' own information sources (e.g. LiDAR technology) to
determine risk and develop consistent model planning and management responses
in consultation with relevant state government agencies and the broader
At Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach in northern Sydney, which is considered to
be the beach most vulnerable to erosion from coastal storms in northern Sydney
and where severe storms were experienced in 2016, EIANZ note that actions to
preserve and protect the beach have been undertaken. These actions include
'ensuring that development along Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach considers current and
future hazards of wave impact and coastal erosion'.
The committee was also advised of a 16-kilometre seawall being built by
the Gold Coast City Council to protect its beaches.
Public works as part of flood risk management have also been undertaken.
The committee was referred to a levee constructed in Deniliquin which, for an
investment of $15.8 million, is expected to 'avoid $85 million in flood damages
in a 1 in 100 year flood'. However, flood mitigation efforts can encounter opposition; the committee was
also informed of instances where the construction of levees have been opposed
on amenity or heritage grounds.
The evidence received during this inquiry provides a sample of the climate
change adaptation projects being undertaken. The committee is also aware of
other examples, such as the local government projects supported by the
Victorian Government intended to build community capacity and resilience in the
face of climate change.
An innovative approach to helping inform the community about the risk of
rising sea levels is the Witness King Tide Program. Green Cross Australia
submitted that this program centres on king tides, which are the highest tides
of the year that occur twice annually due to astronomical and gravitational
factors. The program uses king tides as an 'opportunity for the public to
understand what sea level rise projections might mean for their local
community'. Green Cross Australia explained how the program operates as
When king tides hit, we ask coastal communities around
Australia to head out and snap pictures of local landmarks during the very high
tide. These photos capture what our coastal communities may look like in the
future, as global sea levels rise. Together, these images build a picture of
the threat posed by sea level rise across Australia and help track the future
impact of climate change. This Citizen Science program has been very successful
with over 6,000 photos shared on an interactive map...
Other resources are also available to assist individuals, businesses,
communities and governments to prepare for the impacts of climate change in
coastal areas. Of particular note is the CoastAdapt website developed by the National
Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), which highlights the risks
coastal areas face from climate change and sea level rise, and provides advice
regarding effective responses to those risks. Other sources include:
- inundation risk mapping using the Google Earth engine published
by digital mapping service provider NGIS; and
- the interactive map published by the Australian Government that
provides data for different locations across Australia on projected changes in
sea level rise and other climate risks.
Green Cross Australia explained that it has 'run a series of
hypotheticals where we have engaged with business, industry and communities to
consider the implications of storm surge in important areas around Australia
and how we might respond to them'. An example that Green Cross Australia
highlighted is modelling of how a hypothetical storm surge would affect
Townsville. This modelling, which was undertaken with CSIRO and Townsville City
Council, demonstrates 'how quickly water can move and how soon it reaches low
lying homes and businesses'.
Mapping work undertaken elsewhere has also assisted governments to
understand how low lying areas are at risk from 'more frequent and dramatic
inundation and erosion'. The Tasmanian Government acknowledged that 'these
events and their impacts could have serious implications for both public and
private assets in vulnerable coastal areas'.
Work undertaken by the CSIRO for local and state governments was also
highlighted during this inquiry, such as the sea level rise projections
commissioned by the Tasmanian Government and the City of Port Phillip. CSIRO has also developed tools to assist decision-making, such as an integrated
adaptation framework called C‑FAST (City based Flood Adaptation Solutions
Tool) and the Climate Risk Information and Services Platform (CRISP).
On the latter program, CSIRO advised that it 'aims to support
business-as-usual workflows in decision-making by Commonwealth agencies'. To do this, CRISP promotes a stress-testing approach that prompts the user 'to
consider a higher end change so that when they make their decision, they know
it is robust to a worst‑case scenario'.
Evidence received from some state governments indicated that work is
being undertaken to ensure planning systems are appropriate for climate change.
For example, the Queensland Government explained that a recent review of
the planning system to 'better integrate climate change mitigation and adaption
measures into the planning framework' has resulted in the following:
in relation to new development, all local planning schemes in
Queensland are required to contain provisions to avoid or mitigate the risks of
natural hazards (including floods, bushfires, inundation and erosion);
- a requirement that climate change projections (including a
projected sea level rise of 0.8 metres by 2100) must now be considered when
planning new development near the coastline, and that new development in
erosion prone areas along the coast must be avoided; and
- the 'promotion of effective and energy efficient design and
siting of buildings, the integration of transport and land use planning, and
the delivery of quality urban design'.
One of the objectives of the Western Australian Government's coastal
planning policy is 'to avoid future development within areas identified to be
at risk from coastal hazards during a 100 year planning timeframe'.
Nevertheless, evidence received from several stakeholders expressed
concerns with planning arrangements and indicated that divergent approaches
between different states and territories are developing. For example, Regional
Development Australia – South West (RDA South West) informed the committee that
construction near 'high value but exposed beaches and coastline is continuing
in the south west [of Western Australia] despite a general acceptance of
the inevitability of sea level rises'. RDA South West continued:
Some of the infrastructure building is by local government on
ground that is 1m or less above sea level. It is not expected that sea walls
will be constructed, although some have [been] created as basic in-beach sea
defences to mitigate against storm events. Foreshore infrastructure projects
have been funded by both State and Federal Governments.
Whether this is deemed reasonable social and economic
development for medium term gain is another question, but there is little doubt
that the projects are publicly popular and will very likely succumb to sea
level rises before the end of the century.
The Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) argued that
the planning system in Western Australia 'has not been altered sufficiently to
take into account climate change issues'. Despite climate risks being evident
across the state, WALGA expressed concern that 'to date the only genuine policy
response or control adopted to ensure that the future supply of housing is
appropriate to its environment in WA is the bushfire planning and building
controls adopted in December 2015'. WALGA argued that local governments and
landowners need greater guidance and clarity from the state government to
understand the risk of coastal inundation and other potential climate
The insurance company IAG argued that current planning and zoning requirements
'do not reflect the level of risk communities will face in the future'.
IAG argued that a 'thorough review' is needed of planning and zoning
requirements to 'ensure they are changed to reflect the range of scenarios and
forecasts in risk exposure that will occur with climate change'. IAG argued
that 'current land planning and zoning requirements are misaligned with
insurance risk', and that this places pressure on the affordability of
insurance (this is discussed further in Chapter 5).
The Housing Industry Association (HIA) called for what it termed 'truth
in zoning' so that landowners and the housing industry can confidently make
decisions about future development. Mr Michael Roberts provided the following explanation
of the HIA's position:
...if land is identified as suitable for residential or urban
development, it should be free from the need to undertake additional
costly and exhaustive studies after the fact. Equally, land should not be zoned
for residential or urban purposes if an ongoing high level of risk has been
identified and the issue remains unresolved.
The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) commented
that there is a need to reconsider the current approach where planning is based
on historical information, such as the use of '1 in 100 year events' as a
benchmark for planning decisions. The ASBEC argued that this approach 'poses a
significant impediment to climate change adaptation'. The ASBEC called on
governments to make 'a greater commitment to ensuring planning systems are
Floodplain Management Australia (FMA) also commented on land use
planning. It provided the following observations:
Land use planning will need to factor in future climate
change related risks when determining where existing facilities such as
hospitals, schools and aged care facilities should be located. Overly harsh
policies will restrict the opportunities to provide these facilities, while no
restrictions can generate unmanageable risks. Land use planning could also address
future risks associated with climate change by encouraging redevelopment to
more flood compatible uses. Land use planning is, of course, only one element
of a comprehensive flood risk management strategy and needs to be considered in
conjunction with other measures such as structural mitigation measures.
The FMA also argued that differences between the approaches taken by
state, territory and local governments are unhelpful and, in some cases, it
again asserted that these differences were due to concerns about highlighting
risks to property. The FMA submitted:
There are inconsistencies in benchmarks for sea level rise
and rainfall intensity changes applied by the different State/Territory and
Local Government jurisdictions in Australia. While there is, understandably,
the potential for local variations the inconsistencies are often related to
parochial concerns with identifying future risks to private property.
For example, over recent years in NSW here has been a
regrettable retreat from definitive policies about sea level rise predictions
to be adopted for 50 and 100 year horizons. Further, a scattering of state
based policies dealing with climate change across related NSW agencies such as
the Office of Environment and Heritage and Department of Planning and
Environment make it difficult to access and understand the totality of the
State Government's direction.
The FMA argued that these inconsistences and the lack of a 'definitive
and nationally consistent policy' on sea level rise and rainfall intensive benchmarks
are 'a significant barrier to facilitating orderly and efficient planning
to manage the effects of climate change into the future'.
The HIA similarly argued that Australian, state and territory
governments 'need to show more leadership' to address the uncertainties around
planning for sea level rise. Mr Michael Roberts from the HIA stated:
There is currently no well-established approach to
incorporating climate change issues such as sea level rise into the land use
decision-making process. Planning for sea level rise needs a more sophisticated
approach than has traditionally been employed to deal with other natural
hazards. The long-term solutions for sea level rise cannot simply be dealt with
in the same way as flooding. There is a need for a staged strategy that
provides flexibility to adapt to updates in the science over time.
It should also be remembered that most current land use
strategic plans only have a 25-year horizon. The strategy needs to recognise
the average life of buildings and the redevelopment churn that is highly likely
to occur in the coastal areas over the next 50 to 70 years. Now is not the last
chance governments will get to direct built form outcomes.
Stakeholders also called for greater coordination of various government
policies. For example, the South East Councils Climate Change Alliance
suggested that the Local Government Act 1989 (Vic) should include
overarching principles regarding climate risk planning and mitigation, as well
as specific references linking it to the Climate Change Act 2017 (Vic).
Finally, other approaches to land-use planning informed by international
experience could be considered. During the committee's public hearing in
Melbourne, the concept of 'sponge cities' was discussed. This is where public
areas in cities are planned to detain stormwater, where these areas are 'robust
enough to drain and then be used for public open space', rather than being
areas lost for permanent stormwater management. The committee was referred to
examples of Copenhagen, Denmark and Hafencity in Hamburg, Germany, although sponge city projects are also being pursued in China where 16 cities
have the goal that by 2020, 80 per cent of their urban areas should absorb and
reuse at least 70 per cent of rainwater. The City of Melbourne and City of Port Phillip are examining stormwater
management options based on these techniques.
Urban heat island effect
Evidence was received about how the design of the urban environment can
mitigate other climate change-related risks, such as heat effects in urban
areas. For example, the Northern Territory Government submitted that a
study is underway to identify the causes of heat accumulation in the Darwin
central business district and to investigate possible policy options. The
Early analysis suggests there are a range of options that
could collectively reduce the average temperature across the entire CBD by up
to 3°C, but localised temperature reductions could be significantly greater
around options such as water features. This study has progressed to a point
where cost–benefit analysis of a range of options is underway. The major
benefit of implementing these options is to make the CBD a more accommodating
and attractive place to live work and visit, with potential flow-on benefits in
better infrastructure utilisation, and lower energy consumption because
buildings and roads should remain cooler, radiate less heat, and therefore
generate lower ambient temperatures so that air conditioning does not need to
work as hard.
Evidence received by the committee indicated options available to address
urban heat are available and increasingly well understood. The committee was
referred to strategies and projects in Melbourne to increase the amount of
greenery in public areas. Witnesses representing the City of Melbourne and the City
of Port Phillip explained that, given local governments have limited resources
for such efforts, this work has been informed by canopy and health island
mapping to ensure that hotspots requiring the most urgent attention are
The New South Wales Government recently announced a program to plant
five million new trees in Sydney by 2030 to lower urban heat. It is expected
that this measure will result in the tree canopy in Sydney doubling from 16.8
per cent to 40 per cent. The Greater Sydney Commission's Western City District Plan identifies extending
the urban tree canopy as a key planning priority.
The committee also heard how 'green' infrastructure supported by 'blue'
infrastructure can help address the urban heat effect and benefit individual
building owners. Hobsons Bay City Council provided the following overview of
green and blue infrastructure and how these types of projects can benefit local
Green infrastructure includes trees, gardens, creepers and
vegetated walls and roofs throughout urban areas. For example refrigerated
warehouses may benefit from green roofs to provide insulation and mitigate the [urban
heat island (UHI)] effect, reducing energy costs and reducing the risk of heat
stress to workers. Blue infrastructure includes using rainwater, stormwater,
recycled water and other water sources to maintain the green infrastructure...These
techniques to reduce the UHI effect are applicable to all projects, from large
scale (e.g. major roads) to small scale (e.g. individual dwellings). These
techniques need to become business as usual to reduce the risk of heat stress
and associated health issues.
The Water Services Association of Australia also noted the link between
green infrastructure and blue infrastructure. It argued that the economics of
providing irrigated green open space and other green infrastructure 'are
favourable when using alternative water sources such as recycled water or
The utilisation of green infrastructure is the focus of the New South
Wales Government's draft Greener Places strategy. One of the draft strategy's
aims is to 'create a healthier, more liveable and sustainable urban environment
by...improving the resilience of urban areas'. The draft strategy identifies that
this can be achieved through 'co-ordinated planning and design of green cover
strategies including street trees, green walls and roofs, canopy trees, cool
pavements and water sensitive urban design'.
Although examples of efforts to reduce urban heat are readily apparent,
a common theme in evidence is that further work in required. In
particular, local governments were critical of state government support for
reducing the urban heat island effect. For example:
- Hobsons Bay City Council submitted that buildings and the urban
environment can be designed in ways to reduce the urban heat island effect;
however, there 'is currently no legislation, standards or guidelines that
provide a minimum standard for managing this issue'. Furthermore, the Council
argued that 'there is also a knowledge deficit, through lack of training or
capacity building, to enable the design and construction sector to increase
their capacity to reduce the UHI effect'.
- WALGA submitted that local governments are attempting to address
the loss of tree canopy cover through urban forest plans, however, it considers
that there is a lack of 'appropriate planning mechanisms' to support local
governments. In particular, WALGA criticised 'inconsistent' Western Australian government
policies, the lack of revegetation requirements for new developments, and
inadequate protections for existing trees, and the lack of funding for the urban
forest plans. WALGA also observed that a further challenge is the 'lack of
knowledge (from community, staff and councillors) regarding the benefits of an
It was suggested that addressing the urban heat island effect requires
reconsideration of where populations are based and how greenfield developments
are planned. Professor Tor Hundloe noted that most population growth in Sydney
and Brisbane is occurring inland in the western districts of these metropolitan
areas. Professor Hundloe observed that the temperatures in those areas are
generally several degrees Celsius higher than in urban areas closer to the
coast. Professor Hundloe suggested that greater consideration needs to be given
to addressing urban heat in the areas where population growth is being
facilitated, such as through the provision of green space. Recently, it has been suggested that the most vulnerable residents in cities
such as Sydney are generally the most exposed to heat risks, creating a 'heat inequality'
component of the social inequality already experienced between different
The Western City District Plan and the Greener Places draft strategy (see paragraphs
4.30 and 4.33) indicate that this issue is receiving policymakers' attention in
some parts of Australia.
The HIA also argued that public spaces in greenfield development will
need to provide greenery to address urban heat. Mr Michael Roberts, a HIA
representative, noted that block sizes in new developments have decreased in
size, reflecting policy preferences relating to housing affordability as well
as the recognition that 'large trees aren't the best cohabitant of houses'.
Accordingly, it was argued that 'we need to look more towards the public realm
as the space that provides vegetation cover'. Mr Roberts commented,
however, that local governments have delivered 'mixed messages' about this
aspect of planning, with concerns about the need to protect natural assets
generally being the focus of local government policy rather than addressing
climate risks or natural hazards.
On identifying preferred areas for population growth, it was suggested
that the facilitation of population growth in areas near cities that have
cooler climates could be supported by the Australian Government through finance
for projects such as fast rail.
CSIRO suggested that green infrastructure 'could potentially be
considered alongside built infrastructure assets managed by councils' to help
reduce the impacts of extreme heat, particularly the health-related
consequences. CSIRO observed that to assist these efforts, it would be useful
to determine 'a value on vegetation in cities (through the benefits of reducing
heating/cooling requirements, reduced hospital emissions, etc.)'. CSIRO argued
that such information could enable more informed cost–benefit analyses to
'build the business case for climate adaptation'.
Other techniques to address urban heat were noted. Professor Jon Barnett
advised that the use of light coloured roofing and road surfacing materials
'is a practical solution' to reducing the urban heat island effect.
Along with the use of green and blue infrastructure, Professor Barnett argued
that the use of light coloured materials 'need to become business as usual to
reduce the risk of heat stress and associated health issues'.
As noted elsewhere in this report, local governments have invested in
defences such as sea walls to protect properties and important natural assets. Policies for coastal defences have also been developed—the Western Australia
Government has specified that coastal protection works 'should only be
considered after all options for avoiding and adapting to coastal hazards have
been fully explored'. In addition, coastal protection works can only proceed if
they meet certain conditions, such as the primary benefit of the works being
for the public benefit (and that this public benefit and a positive return to
the state is supported by a cost–benefit analysis).
Submitters suggested that greater attention to protecting natural
coastal defences is required. Lake Macquarie City Council called on the Australian
Government to support programs designed to 'maintain the function of dune
ecosystems as a natural defence to coastal infrastructure and private property,
including ongoing community involvement in dune restoration projects'. In
addition, the Council argued that the Australian Government should support the
further development of remote sensing techniques and ensure data are made
available 'to support high resolution monitoring of coastal recession and
changes in natural coastal defence systems'.
Hobsons Bay City Council argued that there is a need for 'research,
knowledge sharing and capacity building to better understand the interface
between land and water, and the suitability of techniques to protect different
land uses', particularly in relation to coastal protection techniques. The Council
...long term monitoring and evaluation of different coastal
protection techniques is required to determine success and understand any
unintended consequences. Techniques such as mangrove trees may prove to be very
successful in reducing erosion, however when applied to areas of coastal
saltmarsh the mangroves may significantly change the habitat and biodiversity
of an area. Only through long term monitoring and evaluation will there be the
capacity for coastal managers to learn and improve their techniques for coastal
Planning for built areas becoming uninhabitable
As outlined in this report, climate change presents a wide range of
challenges for built infrastructure. For example, modelling has identified
areas in Australia at risk of inundation due to climate change. This could
result in damaged or destroyed properties, or buildings that are contaminated
and deemed uninhabitable. Other developments, such as increased frequency of bushfire weather, may
result in a greater number of bushfire events.
Despite this knowledge and the use of modelling to identify the areas at
greatest risk, new development is continuing to occur in those high risk areas.
Individuals may also not be taking actions to protect their properties, and
either do not choose, or are unable to afford, appropriate levels of insurance
This section builds on the issues discussed in this report up to this
point—particularly land-use planning and the information available to guide
decisions—to consider the evidence received regarding appropriate
responses if properties known to be at risk today are threatened in the future.
Views on the need to consider
The NCCARF noted that whether private house owners will respond to
climate change risks is influenced by 'financial capacity, support networks,
and knowledge and understanding of risk'. It argued that homeowners, once well informed,
might undertake building alternations, particularly if they experience an
extreme event. Nevertheless, they might encounter various challenges in doing
so, including 'cost, design and construction of the existing home, insurance
limitations, and government restrictions'.
Despite the ability for well-informed homeowners to take action to
improve the resilience of their property, the NCCARF noted that some housing
will face a greater risk than what can be offset through design, such as houses
at risk due to sea level rise. In situations where owners have to
consider abandoning their houses, the NCCARF envisaged that owners would
'likely...look to legal redress and/or government compensation'.
The potential for this outcome attracted comment from other submitters.
RDA South West noted that there is a need to ensure informed decisions can
be made, such as by publicising mapping of at-risk areas. It also argued that a
'framework should be developed so that infrastructure in "at risk"
zones is built with a view to removal and/or planned retreat'. Beyond these
actions, given what is known about climate change, RDA South West argued there
is a need for individuals to take responsibility for their actions. It argued:
Construction decisions need to become the full responsibility
of the investor. Anyone who builds in 'at risk' zones cannot expect government
(at any level) to construct coastal defence systems to protect private
investment ie there should be an assumption that protective infrastructure will
not be provided at public cost.
It also appears unlikely that state governments would be obliged to
compensate existing landowners for coastal erosion. The committee has not
examined this in detail, however, a report prepared by an engineering
consultancy for a Western Australian local government explained that, in
...landowners own the rights to develop and use land as granted
by land use regulations; they do not own the land itself. There is no law
requiring the government (at any level) to provide protection of private property
from natural hazards, nor compensation when land is lost to the sea. There are,
however, several laws that allow the intervention of governments to enforce
eviction if private property becomes uninhabitable, or removal of property if
it constitutes a public risk. In the event of coastal erosion causing a
property to "fall into the sea", and the land to disappear below the
high water mark, the loss is to be borne by the property owner.
During this inquiry, the committee became aware of preliminary work
being undertaken regarding planned retreat. Councillor Richard Ellis of East
Gippsland Shire Council advised that planned retreat of the commercial areas of
Lakes Entrance and the prevention of future development in coastal areas have
been discussed within Council. Councillor Ellis commented, however, that the
costs that would be involved are 'quite remarkable'.
Councillor Ellis added that, as a general observation, state governments
do not appear to be discussing options for retreat. A government that has, however, is the Western Australian Government. Its coastal
zone strategy stipulates that planned or managed retreat 'should be used for
existing development where possible', with efforts to accommodate the risk
through design approaches to be pursued 'where it can be demonstrated that
retreat is not possible'. Local governments in Western Australia are currently developing plans to give
effect to the state government's policy.
Mr Walters from the City of Port Phillip agreed that retreat in the
urban environment has 'been talked about', however, he added that it is 'very difficult
to imagine' given it would 'involve acquisition of some of the most valuable
land in the country'. Mr Walters also noted that local governments have not undertaken
work to assess how land values might be affected due to climate change that
could identify the point at which land might become less valuable due to
threats about habitability—Mr Walters described this as being the
'elephant in the room'.
Dr Russell Wise, Senior Research Scientist, CSIRO, observed that local
governments would find it difficult to plan for retreat effectively, and in any
case the constituents of local governments would likely find planning for
retreat unpalatable. Dr Wise explained:
One of the things that's quite clear is that a lot of the
people that are responsible for making these types of decisions in the local
government often don't have the capabilities or the resources to undertake
these kinds of assessments. One of the other issues, I think, is that there's
an expectation on local government to be able to act on some of these options.
So the option of retreat is not really an option that any local government
To give effect to the Western Australian Government's coastal planning
policy, which has acknowledged that retreat will need to be considered, local
governments are developing coastal hazard plans. In response to the draft plan
prepared for the Shire of Gingin, a recent media article has highlighted local residents'
concerns that the final plan will cause their land to have no value and that
compensation might not be available despite the government deeming the land
suitable for development since the 1960s.
Proposals for improvement
Several stakeholders argued that there is a need for the Australian
Government to have a leadership role in guiding how to manage the risk of
coastal inundation, including how the issue of retreat should be approached.
Mr Paul Grech from the FMA argued that there is a need for nationally
consistent guidance on, among other things, how to manage the 'gradual and,
ultimately, permanent inundation of low-lying coastal communities due to
sea-level rise'. Mr Grech commented that this is 'probably the most
significant' issue on which national guidance on managing climate change
related flood risks is needed.
The HIA argued that the Australian Government needs to provide
'clear leadership and direction about the necessary first step in
identifying coherent response strategies' regarding expected sea level rise,
including as to whether and how developed areas will be defended. In addressing
this issue, the HIA argued that the Australian Government needs to:
- evaluate potential defensive measures and examine how they could
be funded; and
- resolve who is responsible for managing the legal risks arising
from planning decisions affecting existing individual property owners,
including by determining who will bear the costs if land is rendered
unbuildable or buildings are damaged or lost.
The HIA provided the following explanation as to why national leadership
is required to address these issues:
The current practice of leaving this issue to local
government to solve will result in local governments in potentially affected
areas attempting to address the issue on a site-by-site,
development-application-by-development-application basis. This only serves to
create significant uncertainty for everyone. It will be costly for those brave
enough to have a go and will undoubtedly lead to a range of expensive and
The suggestion for policy options to ensure a planned retreat in areas
where the risk cannot be mitigated was also supported by the NCCARF.
Finally, the ASBEC argued that improvements in Australia's planning
systems and greater availability of data would support governments to
'anticipate and deal with the effects of climate change', including with
respect to decision-making regarding retreat. In particular, the ASBEC argued
that 'rigorous consultation' as part of the process for amending planning
...would ensure that any amendments are both appropriate and
strongly supported and form the basis of discussion with the community about
attitudes towards accommodation, acceptance, and retreat measures as solutions
to climate change.
Who pays for resilience works?
As with many public policy issues, the question of 'who pays' for
actions to improve the resilience of housing, buildings and infrastructure to
climate change is critical. Many types of resilience measures provide wider
public benefits—accordingly, individuals and the private sector likely do not
have a sufficient incentive to invest in these actions. The following evidence
from Mr Michael Roberts of the HIA regarding sea walls illustrates this
...if you...need to build a sea wall, you cannot generate a
return on a sea wall so there will be zero private sector incentive to build a
sea wall. But at the same time, the whole area will benefit from increased
resilience to storm surge. So then how do you build an economic model which
incentivises investment into public infrastructure, which then creates private
It was noted that identifying who is responsible for managing adaptation
risks is clear in some cases, such as for roads. There are also examples of state governments that provide councils with funding
to build resilience to climate risks.
Nevertheless, even in cases where ownership is clear and the owner has
an incentive to defend their asset, others still benefit from that asset being
made more resilient. This could raise questions of equity. For example, Mr
Roberts from the HIA noted that the Brisbane City Council is responsible for
the Port of Brisbane, however, as the Port provides significant economic
benefits for a large region, Mr Roberts posed the question: 'Is it fair to lump
the responsibility of defending the port wholly and solely on Brisbane City
Council?' Mr Roberts concluded that there 'needs to be a much more
sophisticated approach to this issue than we have traditionally used in dealing
with other natural hazards'.
Another issue is that efforts to improve the resilience of private
property can be opposed by others. Professor Lesley Hughes provided the following
evidence illustrating the potential for such an outcome:
...in the Belongil Beach-Byron
Bay area we have seen where there have been considerable legal implications of
sea level rise and storm surge damage there, where councils have tried to
prevent individual owners sandbagging their properties, on the grounds that
that has impacts on their neighbours.
It was noted that some of these pressures will likely be addressed by
the insurance market and decisions by prospective buyers not to invest in
properties in at‑risk areas such as flood prone regions. However, as
discussed previously in this chapter, it was argued that there is a role for
government to ensure suitable land-use planning policies are in place to guide
appropriate development outcomes.
Other stakeholders argued that there is a need to find alternative ways
for funding investment in resilient public infrastructure. Some state governments have publicly identified the need to address these
issues. In its WA Coastal Zone Strategy, the Western Australian Government
has suggested that coastal protection works that are in the public interest
should be supported by:
- a financial plan covering construction costs and ongoing
- funding arrangements based on a user pays principle 'whereby
those who benefit the most provide the greatest financial contribution'.
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page