Law Reform · Energy & Climate

Removal of sea level rise projections from coastal maps

28 October, 2014

The Qld Government is proposing to remove the requirement to assess the impacts of projected Sea Level Rise on many coastal developments.

Queensland’s Coastal Management Districts (CMD), which are declared under the Coastal Protection and Management Act 1995 (Qld), will be amalgamated into a single CMD. The proposed changes to the CMD to remove sea level rise projections for 2100 mean there is a much smaller area than is currently covered. Consequently, fewer developments will trigger the State Development and Assessment Provisions relating to Sea Level Rise.

This latest proposal demonstrates the unwillingness of the Queensland Government to seriously address the impacts of climate change. Sea Level Rise will have increasingly costly ramifications if development does not proceed appropriately. This represents a ‘serious legal risk’ to councils and other government entities, as well as impacts on coastal communities. The changes expose governments to litigation by the future Queenslanders, whose houses, health and safety will be affected by sea level rise

In summary, we reject the proposal for the following reasons:

  1. As a result of these changes, it is expected that there will be litigation against the government by the future generation of Queensland. It is ultimately the hardworking people of Queensland who will be paying for the costs of defending such action through taxpayers and rate payers
  2. Devolving sea level rise planning to local governments will mean a lack of consistency across Queensland, variations in planning approaches, and conceivably some local governments failing to address sea level rise at all
  3. There is an economic imperative to act now, rather than ignoring the challenges we know will occur. Climate change and sea level rise will happen anyway, regardless of any changes the Queensland Government is walk away from climate change adaptation and planning. Taking this step will simply result in Queensland being less prepared when it does occur
  4. As this step will result in weaker protection for coastal areas from climate change impacts, it conflicts with the draft Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan and Queensland’s commitments in the Great Barrier Reef Intergovernmental Agreement. Ensuring strong climate change adaptation and resilience, such as planning for sea level rise, is an essential requirement set out in these two main policies concerning Reef protection.