Monday, February 23, 2009

Plan tells developers to weigh up years of sea change

From The Sydney Morning Herald

Ben Cubby and Wendy Frew

February 21, 2009

EVERY new beachside home, coastal apartment block and piece of infrastructure on the coastline of NSW would have to be re-examined under a State Government draft policy on rising sea levels.

The draft document, to be released today, contains guidelines for local councils which say the impact of rising sea levels should be assessed "over the life of an asset", meaning that long-term developments would need to take sea-level rise into account for decades into the future.

The policy will put developers and insurance companies on notice that scientific advice from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the CSIRO is now the state's benchmark, and that this can be updated as scientific predictions change. The benchmark says sea levels in NSW can be expected to rise up to 40 centimetres by 2050. This would affect many thousands of homes and subject low-lying areas to the "Venice effect", according to an earlier State Government report on the issue. It would lead to worse flooding and damage to coastal infrastructure, the Government said.

It is not clear how the policy will effect a controversial section in the Government's Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, which allows the State Government to have the final say on large developments and override council planning laws.

That section of the act - part 3A - attracted criticism this week when it became clear developers were using it to trump local government planning restrictions on building in bushfire prone areas.

However, the Government said there would be no regulatory or statutory requirement for developments to comply with the rising sea level benchmarks.