The Queensland government has quietly put long-term climate change-related sea level rise back into coastal hazard area mapping, it has been revealed.

The former Newman LNP government removed a requirement in state planning policies for local governments to plan for a 0.8-metre sea level rise by 2100, and even forced one council to remove climate change-affected sea level rise from its planning policy.

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The move by the former government had created upset amongst local councils, worried they would be held liable for future damage to property affected by sea-level rise.

However, an email to local councils from state director environment planning John Lane last week said the new Labor government recognised the causes and effects of climate change and was committed to reducing carbon pollution and facilitating adaptation actions.

“Part of this commitment is to reinstate long-term, climate change related sea level rise into the planning and development framework and facilitate the preparation of coastal hazard adaptation plans by coastal councils,” Mr Lane said.

“The first stage of this work, to reinstate a climate change sea level rise factor in the coastal hazard mapping, has been completed. The coastal hazard area mapping has been updated to reflect projected impacts of climate change to 2100. This includes a 0.8 metre sea level rise incorporated into erosion prone area and storm tide inundation area mapping.”

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection has also declared new erosion prone areas for the Queensland coast, with erosion prone area plans available online as well as indicative footprint mapping of the erosion prone area and storm tide inundation area to assist in planning and development assessment on the coast.

“The mapping is very similar to coastal hazard mapping available in 2012,” Mr Lane said. “However, it has been updated with a new shoreline position and other minor improvements.”

NSW reform agenda

The NSW Coalition government also rejected the former Labor government’s sea level rise planning benchmarks for 2050 and 2100, which were based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change data.

Legal advice to local governments obtained by The Fifth Estate, however, said local councils would be prudent to continue to use the former government’s sea level rise planning benchmarks until the Coalition government delivered on a promised approach to sea level rise that was more responsive to local conditions.

In November last year then environment minister (now planning minister) Rob Stokes released a statement on the second stage of coastal reform.

The government’s reforms have three key elements:

  • replacing the current legislation with new coastal management legislation – a proposed new Coastal Management Act
  • new arrangements to better support council decision making, including a decision support framework, a new coastal management manual, and improved technical advice
  • more sustainable arrangements for funding and financing coastal management activities

The new Act, Mr Stokes said, would provide for regional-scale coastal hazard mapping to be developed and incorporated into regional planning instruments.

He said public consultation would occur in mid-2015, with a view to having legislation before parliament by the end of 2015.

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