CLIMATE CHANGE A wake up call
When the super storm recently ripped through NSW it caused havoc, heartache and costly damage — on the North Shore and Northern Beaches especially. Worryingly, it heralded the ugly face of climate change and potential future catastrophes facing our residents and local communities.
As local councils and SES mopped up the damage and attended hundreds of calls, tides swept up Balmoral Beach, The Spit and many other North Shore coastal areas and rivers.
Trees smashed across roads, houses and parked cars -and as homes teetered on cliff tops, residents counted the emotional and financial damage.
As politicians tried to calm the situation, it was clear that "business as usual" would not protect the coastline or residents from future ever-greater climate change scenarios.
"Mosman will most certainly not be immune to the devastating effects of climate change, Mosman's deputy mayor, Carolyn Corrigan, tells North Shore living.
"As a community, we need to incorporate the science Into our short and long term-strategic coastal protection plans, have realistic and honest conversations and work together to protect our coastline and our residents."
Last November, North Shore councils and NSW coastal communities were given three months to 'have their say’ on State Government recommendations for a draft bill to amend the Coastal Management Act, which would be replaced with a new State Environmental Planning Policy.
"Since the original Coastal Protection Act was enacted in 1979, our understanding of coastal processes has improved dramatically," Mr Stokes says. ''We know the coastline is not a fixed object but a dynamic, ever-changing environment with a range of natural processes.”
He says changes to climate change are likely to intensify our existing hazards, with new challenges emerging.
In 2014, the NSW Liberal State Government took a decision to reject local councils' sea level benchmarking, angering planning and local authorities. At the time, then Warringah mayor and SHOROC president, Michael Regan, described the state decision as "appalling", saying it would adversely impact on the then-SHOROC Councils of Manly, Mosman, Pinwater and Warringah.
He described the move as "keeping councils in the dark". “After effective planning by local government authorities using these benchmarks from organisations like the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology, the State Government has abandoned these,” he explained.
It left local government grappling with the long-term implications of natural disasters, sea level rises and sand degradation. It appears the Baird Government has now acknowledged that councils need to be given greater flexibility to plan according to their coastal zones impacted by climate change.
The Sydney Coastal Councils Association has been instrumental in projects and research around the area of climate change and rising sea levels. It insists all levels of government must "play their parts" in tackling the problems on the community, the economy and the environment.
Willoughby councillor and current chair of Sydney Coastal Councils, Lynne Saville, tells North Shore Living: "It seems to have taken another super storm to focus our minds on climate change and to take it seriously. The past few months have seen a call to action which will not be forgotten in a hurry.
“The recent storms and damage were the most devastating in my memory - especially on the Northern Beaches. But none of our foreshow areas will be immune from future damage. Building In this area of the foreshore has always been known as being risky.”
She hopes any future “mega councils” will see the Importance and need of the Sydney Coastal Councils, who have years of research on shoreline studies, maps and inundation levels around the country.
Torn Sherlock, Mosman councillor and member of the Sydney Coastal Councils, says Mosman has been planning for storms in coastal management plans. He explained: 'The Balmoral wall was built in the 1930s but we now have to question if this is enough as some properties will be in danger of inundation. Climate change is a reality - it's happening and we cannot Ignore it.”
As the recent storms have shifted sand and the peninsula coastline, one area in danger is The Spit waterfront. Structures such as the Marine Rescue Base and restaurants will be undermined and eroded as future storms take their toll. Residents living in other areas such as Chinaman's Beach and parts of Cremorne, Neutral Bay and Klrribilli waterfront are also subject to tidal flows and rising sea levels.
In the wake of this future high risk coastal degradation, the State Government has just allocated $83.6 million towards the management and mitigation of future coastal risks and hazards over the next five years.
“These funds will support local councils to Increase the resilience of coastal communities, strategic coastal land-use planning and coastal management reforms,” says NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes.
“Population growth and development demand are anticipated to put Increased pressure on coastal assets, so 89.5 million will aid councils in preparing coastal management programs and technical studies. "This funding commitment recognises the importance of NSW’s coastal economy and that the coast is a vital economic zone.”
According to the Climate Council nearly 80 per cent of Australians acknowledge the dangers of climate change, and worry how we will mitigate and control future issues.
“As an administration and elected representatives we absolutely accept the science of climate change and the need to take urgent steps to manage it,” says Mosman Councillor Tom Sherlock. “We need assistance from the State Government on programs and policies to mitigate the threats.”
Cr Lynne Saville is hopeful that future polices at the state level will enhance and back-up what local councils already know. “The problems are serious around the harbour and NSW coastline,” she explains. “The oceans are absorbing more heat and we know climate modelling shows more super storms affecting residents and communities.
“We need effective critical thinking and it's been a huge wake-up call for the State Government. It's an inconvenient truth about global warming we just cannot continue to ignore.