Skip to main content
Start of main content.

Climate heats up but planning laws frozen

RESIDENTS of 'Millionaires Row' on the Gold Coast could be future climate refugees if planning laws fail to keep pace with the changing climate, a Bond University researcher says. 

Mark Ellis is researching the relationship between increasing climate risk and coastal development in Australia, and how local councils are responding.

Mr Ellis says multimillion-dollar beachfront properties currently protected by sea walls will likely be among the hardest hit by increasing storm surges. 

“These people who have bought multimillion-dollar properties are now living in climate hazard zones on the beaches,” he said.

“This has been confirmed by the recent IPCC report on climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.

“Planning policy is not keeping up with the increasing change to the climate that‘s bringing more frequent and intense weather events like the ones we have just experienced all along the east coast of Australia.” 

Mr Ellis says where climate risk has been written into council policies it is based on old climate data that has changed significantly in the past decade. The Gold Coast City Council’s ‘three-point plan’ references a report from 1970.

“For local councils which have had policies of planned retreat – reducing development in coastal areas of greatest risk – changes of government have led to those policies being ignored or replaced with engineering alternatives,” he says.

“There‘s no doubt that policies of planned retreat are politically unpalatable, but many of these areas will continue to be eroded and flooded over and over again. 

“Further climate change impacts could potentially render some parts of the east coast unlivable. Where are the coastal residents going to move? Many people could become climate refugees.” 

Ellis says one of the critical issues is that responsibility for climate adaptation in planning has been pushed from Federal and State governments to local councils over time, but many still don’t factor climate risk into their policies. 

Within the ongoing entanglement of climate change and coastal planning policy, environmental protection, housing policy, political posturing, and court challenges driven by private property rights, councils sometimes can only condition developments instead of restricting housing in at-risk locations. 

“And what‘s the solution to that? Do we keep throwing money at the problem with costly sand renourishment programs, building and maintaining walls and other engineering options, or do we need to move these people away from the places they have made their lives and homes? 

“One of Gold Coasts council‘s adaptation principles is to keep people safe – prioritise higher risk areas and get the land use strategy right to limit future exposure in areas of unacceptable or intolerable risk. How are they benchmarking this risk?” 

Mr Ellis says land-use planning needs to be at the forefront of the deep structural change required to address the many climate risks impacting cities and towns.

“We need a considerable mind-shift in how to address long-term climate risks – including the need to update the building codes to consider increasing climate resilience and act on introducing a climate-conscious planning system for current and future generations”.


More from Bond

  • Bond breaking records in Olympic build up

    Fresh from sweeping the pool at the Aussie age titles our swimmers are gearing up for another lap at the Australia Open Championships this week.

    Read article
  • Bull Sharks return to The Canal for Rd 3 blockbuster

    Rugby Rd 3 preview: A Wallaroo returns as the coaches ring the changes for big challenges across the grades against competition heavyweights.

    Read article
  • New look Bull Sharks set for series opener

    Netball Rd 1 preview: How the Bull Sharks have prepared for netball's new Super Shot rule.

    Read article
  • Bull Sharks out for revenge in Grand Final rematch

    AFL Rd 3 preview: Shaun Hart has spent the summer plotting ways to address the Bull Sharks' weaknesses the Bombers exposed in the Grand Final.

    Read article
  • Gear change speeds up Colts' development

    A behind the scenes look at the Bull Sharks Colts program overseen by All Blacks legend Rico Gear.

    Read article
Previous Next