Another FAIL by Campbell Newman as ‘Sea levels no longer included in State Government planning!’
The move has been dubbed a major legal and insurance nightmare, with the potential to send councils broke because a forecast 0.8m rise by 2100 has the potential to cause billions of dollars in damage.
Although 35,000 Queensland homes are at risk of inundation, Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the Government would not apply an arbitrary, blanket ruling on sea levels.
“We believe local governments are the best placed to make planning decisions according to their local circumstances and their communities and we are empowering them to do so,” Mr Seeney said.
“Under the State Planning Policy, the State will still require councils to consider coastal storm surges and other natural hazards in preparing their local planning schemes.
“Queensland is not alone in adopting this approach. The NSW Government determined the same policy framework for their planning schemes a year ago.”
Local Government Association of Queensland chief executive Greg Hallam said the issue was a legal minefield.
He said it could send councils broke and impact on residents because it might not be possible to insure properties in low-lying areas in future.
If the Government chose not to accept sea level rises, then councils should receive indemnity.
“We’ve been very clear on this. The Government can’t have it both ways,” he said. “If they don’t think sea level rises will occur, fine, indemnify us.”
Opposition environment spokeswoman Jackie Trad said the Government had abandoned any pretence of believing in or planning for the effects of any climate change.
“Because the Newman Government is refusing to act on climate change, future generations will have to pay the cost of coastal rehabilitation and repairing or relocating infrastructure and property damaged as a result of sea level rises,” she said.
The Climate Commission has warned that scientific consensus on warming leading to sea level rises, heatwaves, bushfires and drought has strengthened.
Mr Hallam said the LGAQ accepted that sea level rises occurred but no one knew to what level they might go.
Ms Trad said developers would not have to deal with the consequences of bad planning laws, it would be average Queenslanders who would pay higher taxes and struggle to find home insurance.
Mr Hallam said the LGAQ as an organisation also was exposed because it owned Local Government Mutual Liability, the council insurer.
Mr Seeney declined to say whether he believed in sea level rises, if councils would be indemnified or who would pay for development which might be impacted.
“…People should have the right to make up their own minds as to whether or not they’d like to live and work close to the ocean,” he said.
A leaked Property and Infrastructure Cabinet Committee paper says: “Any local government that elects to include some allowance for sea level rise in their planning schemes will need to justify that the state interests relating to economic development are not materially affected by this.”
The worst hit areas are deemed to be Cairns, Mackay, Hervey Bay and the Gold Coast.
Mr Seeney said the SPP was landmark reform that would revolutionise the way councils, the development and construction industry and the State worked together.