Sea level rise is a concern

COASTAL councils have long been asking the NSW Government for sea level rise benchmarks to help them develop planning policies that incorporate climate change.

However when it released its Sea Level Rise Policy at the end of 2009 with figures of 0.4m by 2050 and 0.9m in 2100, things did not get easier.

Nambucca Shire Mayor Rhonda Hoban said her councillors recently voted to ask staff to keep working on the draft climate change adaptation policy presented at their July meeting.

“Under our Local Environment Plan we are now legally required to consider climate change however it is difficult to know whether our planners should apply the 2050 or the 2100 height predictions when determining a development application,” Cr Hoban said.

“Rather than making things clearer, these benchmarks have brought new problems.”

She said sea level rise was a very real issue for the Nambucca Shire, which had all three of its main towns in low lying areas.

Nambucca is on the ocean and estuary and affected not only by sea level rise but also the predicted increased intensity of storm events, while both Bowraville and Macksville are situated next to the Nambucca River and are flood prone.

“It is a very difficult thing to decide how to apply this information to the development process,” she said.

“Developers would want to argue for the shorter life of their developments and therefore the shorter term height projections.

“But it is not in anyone's interests to allow development that will be a problem in the future.”

She said issues such as in-fill development and the modification of homes already in low-lying areas needed to be considered.

“It is a challenge to find that balance between erring on the side of caution and protecting property without refusing or deterring future development.”

While the majority of the council voted to delay placing the policy on public exhibition until its clarity had been improved, Cr Mike Moran voted against the policy entirely saying he did not believe in climate change.

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