Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMP ‘s) have been a can of worms for local councils and coastal communities alike.
Wooli ‘s 2010 draft CZMP presented by CVC used sea level rise predictions from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. These forecast rises of between 0.4m and 0.9m by 2100 and raised the spectre of â€œplanned retreatâ€ as a very real threat to much of Wooli ‘s property.
Since then, CCPA has worked doggedly to remove the â€œplanned retreatâ€ option from the draft Wooli CZMP.
So it was surprising to note an inclusion in the tender document recently released by CVC for consultants wishing to prepare a draft CZMP for Whiting Beach at Yamba. This inclusion instructs those tendering to use IPCC figures as a basis for their reports the very same figures that led to the confusion and insecurity that accompanied the appearance of the contentious â€œplanned retreatâ€ threat.
While we understand that the previous state government compelled local councils to use these figures back in 2010, it appears that CVC is reluctant to disregard them when drafting current CZMP ‘s, despite some convincing grounds for doubt informing the debate.
Available evidence raises legitimate arguments that counter these long-term worst-case projections. A 2004 CSIRO study, which was quoted by Worley Parsons ‘ report to the Great Lakes Council on the mid-north coast, states that actual sea level rise from 1920 to 2000 would have to accelerate by 400-900% this century to match IPCC forecasts. The extraordinary acceleration needed to achieve these rises was recently confirmed by Professor Michael Asten of the geophysics department at Monash University in an article applying an even longer view, averaging the actual rise from 1900 to 2010.
Further supporting the doubtful relevance of IPCC ‘s projections, the state government has, in a recently released draft planning circular, cautioned local councils about solely relying on IPCC figures, noting that â€œthe further into the future we seek to predict an outcome, the more uncertainty that is associated with the predictionâ€. They suggest instead that councils also employ site-specific data to inform coastal management plans.
Some councils are choosing a different approach over blind adherence to IPCC ‘s predictions. In Fighting on the Beaches (Jan 11-12 2014 The Australian), Wyong Shire Council Mayor, Doug Eaton, was reported as saying that councillors around the country are “terrorised” by the insurers, lawyers and local and state government bureaucrats to accept the IPCC predictions to reduce legal risk, and told they could bear personal liability if the council were sued. But Eaton says that, as a lawyer himself, he has carefully analysed the issues and decided the council would still have the defence that it had acted in good faith because the Labor-era requirement to rely on the IPCC guidelines had been scrapped. “We threw out the sea-level rise crap,” Eaton says.
Wyong Shire Council has instead adopted a previous flood management benchmark plus a free-board of 50cm to account for unspecified allowance for sea level rise if the issue was raised in court.
These issues are on the agenda for CCPA ‘s upcoming meetings with CVC to continue discussions on the next version of Wooli’s CZMP.
P.S Many thanks to Roger Welch for the pics in this article which he took in Solitary Islands Marine Park off Wooli.