Recent wild weather and high seas have highlighted the vulnerability of Australia's coastline. Time is beginning to run out for the formation and implementation of adequate national, state and local government coordinated planning responses.
This opinion piece in The Age last Friday says it all.
"COASTAL development, rising sea levels, increasing storm surges and a vocal community are a potent political mix. The climate change debate has rightly focused on the critical need to reduce carbon emissions but inadequate attention is being given to what we need to do in terms of adaptation to climate change on the coast.
Our coastal communities face an impending crisis. Continuing development in areas likely to be inundated is foolhardy at best. For a nation skilled at emergency management when it comes to floods and fire, we are remarkably unprepared for when the inevitable storm surge hits a populated coastal area.
Coastal planning is one of those policy areas that doesn't fit neatly into one portfolio or level of government. It covers environment, urban planning and infrastructure provision, including water, housing and indigenous interests and cuts across portfolio responsibilities. With the significant risks of climate change, this now involves the Federal Government and the insurance industry, as well as state and local governments.
The Sea Change Taskforce, comprising coastal council representatives and the Planning Institute of Australia among others, has lobbied government for years on the looming problem for local councils experiencing rapid urban growth and the accompanying servicing requirements.
The Australian coastline is littered with exhausted communities battling to save the character and environment of their townships. As if this weren't enough, climate change predictions of rising sea levels and storm surge have added a potent ingredient to the mix challenging the capacity of land-use planning systems and local councils to respond. Only now have governments started to map seriously the coastal areas likely to be inundated at the scales and resolutions needed to respond effectively to the science produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the CSIRO. But this has been largely the result of individual council or state government initiatives rather than as part of a wider plan."
The Age article by Barbara Norman, past national president of the Planning Institute of Australia: