CRACKS are appearing in the state’s response to rising sea levels, with one council facing potential legal action from a developer and other residents worried about planning controls and insurance risks.
Lake Macquarie Council recently updated its recommendations for about 10,000 people living up to three metres above the average sea level. All their properties could be exposed to inundation and increased flood risks by the end of the century, according to guidelines developed by the CSIRO.
But a property developer, Jeff McCloy, said he was contemplating leading a class action suit against the council, which he said was “falling for this unjustified, worldwide idiocy about sea level rises”.
Mr McCloy recently arranged for climate change sceptics Ian Plimer, Bob Carter and David Archibald to address residents and councillors, and said the presentation seemed to convince many people there was nothing to worry about.
It comes as the NSW government reassesses its plans regarding sea level rises, including the possibility of a moratorium on sea level-related planning restrictions until more studies are done.
Mr McCloy is seeking to gain approval for a subdivision of 24 homes that is likely to be affected by the Lake Macquarie planning guidelines.
“This is not about me though; this is about the poor little property owner who had had hundreds of thousands of dollars knocked off the value of their property,” Mr McCloy said.
He said he had studied sea level rise on the internet and concluded it was rising at only a very slow rate, and that rate had slowed in the past decade, so any planning restrictions were unjustified.
Lake Macquarie Council said its guidelines were based on rational science.
“Our position is informed by the available evidence,” said the council’s sustainability manager, Alice Howe.
“In November last year we revised our policy in light of new flood-mapping, and we have written to all the affected residents,” Dr Howe said. The area in question consists of a low-lying area near the lake that is expected to be partly submerged by the end of the century, a middle zone that could be affected by extreme weather and high tides, and an outer zone including areas up to three metres above sea level that could be affected by extreme events in 2100.
The mapping is based on coastal projections developed under the previous state government that used CSIRO studies to determine sea level heights as climate change intensifies in coming decades.
A committee chaired by the the Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, will review the coastal planning guidelines.
“Establishing this task force is an important step in ensuring that NSW has the best arrangements in place to manage coastal erosion and other coastal hazards,” a spokesman for the minister said.