The government in Queensland has made the decision to reclassify coastal hazard areas based on the potential for sea levels to rise. This decision is expected to benefit both long term planning and local councils in deciding on the use for land in these hazard areas. The decision has been applauded by industry members and experts as a way to enable more prudent planning and decision making for future land development designs.
The decision was announced to Queensland council through an email from the state director for environment and planning, John Lane. This email stated that the effect of climate change on sea levels has been reintroduced into the latest distinctions of coastal hazard areas. The coastal hazard area mapping has been updated to reflect impacts of climate change up till 2100, including a point eight metre sea level rise incorporated into erosion prone area and storm tide inundation.
This decision reverses the previous government’s removal of requiring local Queensland governments to consider rising sea levels during land development design planning. The new coastal hazard mapping identifies areas extremely similar to those designated prior to the previous government’s removal of climate change factors from planning policy.
The CEO of the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA), Kirsty Kelly, has hailed this decision as moving in the right direction for the long term of land development design. The PIA believes addressing and adapting to climate change is vital for the future of planning, and rising sea levels are one of the issues that should be taken into consideration. Greater coordination and consistency is needed on a nationwide level, at the very least local councils should be following planning recommendations and zoning decisions for land development design. All of this will need leadership to guide adaptation towards consistent approach throughout the country, including reliable access to data and evidence available from government agencies such as CSIRO and Geoscience Australia.
The decision brings state policy in line with international best practice. It also makes decisions on land development design planning much easier by providing guidelines and certainty for local governments as the first line authority in consent in planning matter, and for development applications, allowing everyone involved to understand what is required.
The expansion of coastal hazard zones does not translate as a ban on development, rather that the impacts will be considered and measure adopted. Coastal hazard maps provide indications of what hazards exist where, allowing developers to take into account the potential dangers and aid in the decision making now that will impact cities for hundreds of years.