18 June 2013 — The Queensland Planning and Environment Court has dismissed an appeal by the developer of a large resort and residential community on Rainbow Beach on the basis of its exposure to erosion, storm surge and climate change-related sea level rise.
Business law firm DLA Piper said the decision, delivered on June 13, sends a strong message on development subject to climate change and inundation from potential sea level rises.
The land developer Rainbow Shores P/L wanted to build on had been overlaid by coastal hazard mapping, and considering the extent to which the proposed development would be subject to storm surge, including potential sea level rise due to climate change, the court found much of the site could be susceptible to inundation.
In dismissing the appeal and disallowing the development, the judge said, “It would, in my view, be unwise to grant a preliminary approval, which is to set the framework for substantial development over a long period of time in this locality, without ensuring that the future development is protected from potential inundation.”
DLA Piper said that the decision recognises that long-term climate change impacts – at least in regards to sea level rise – must be considered when deciding applications for development proposed along the coast.
It said the decision marks a critical point in planning law and sends a message to planning decision makers about the increasing relevance of sea level rise and climate change-related coastal inundation to coastal development.
“Where development is proposed in a coastal hazard area and is potentially susceptible to storm surge inundation, unless otherwise protected, it is unlikely to be approved,” said DLA Piper.