What’s happening and why?

    Livingstone Shire Council has received funding from the State’s QCoast2100 program to prepare a Coastal Hazard Adaptation Strategy (CHAS).

    We are undertaking this project to better understand the risks posed by coastal hazards that affect our coastline today, as well as those that will affect it in the future. It is important for us to understand how coastal hazards could affect our community, environment, cultural values, and assets, so that we can be prepared and make informed decisions on what short and long-term actions should be taken to manage the risks.

    What areas will the CHAS consider, and will the islands be included?

    The CHAS study area will include the entire Livingstone coast line. However, as the Livingstone Coast stretches for some 300 kilometres, Council’s primary focus is on:

    ·  approximately 80 kilometres of coastline from Fishing Creek at the northern end of Farnborough Beach to the Fitzroy River; and

    the islands that are adjacent to this coastline.

    What is adaptation?

    According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2014):

    ·  ‘Adaptation’ is defined as the ‘the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects’.

    ·  For human environments, the underlying intention is to moderate or avoid harm, and utilise any beneficial opportunities.

    ·  For natural systems, adaptation may involve efforts to assist in adjusting to the changed circumstances.

    How adaptation is undertaken can vary considerably. There can be ‘hard’ responses such as groynes or seawalls, or ‘soft’ responses such as re-vegetation. Responses also need to be based on ‘triggers.’ As an example, if a park is inundated more than a set number of times in a year and its landscaping is irreversibly damaged, that could be the trigger to replace the landscaping with more resistant and resilient species. 

    What are coastal hazards?

    Coastal hazards are the natural processes of coastal erosion, storm-tide inundation and permanent tidal inundation due to sea level rise.

    What will the CHAS achieve?

    The CHAS will provide Council and the community high quality information that will enable well-considered, timely and effective decisions about how to respond to coastal hazard risks. This information will assist long-term planning such as:

    ·  Land use planning and development assessment;

    ·  Infrastructure planning and management, including roads, stormwater, sewerage, and water supply;

    ·  Asset management and planning, including foreshore management, nature conservation, recreation, cultural heritage values and other public amenities;

    ·  Environmental management and Natural Resource Management (NRM) activities;

    ·  Community planning; and

    ·  Emergency management.

    Our region has historically experienced the impacts of coastal hazards, and these impacts are expected to increase into the future. The CHAS will help us to better understand both our existing and future risks to the Livingstone coast to ensure they are appropriately managed in the long term.

    Are other local governments doing this?

    Yes, there are 30 other coastal councils in Queensland currently participating in the QCoast2100 program. Some of these Councils have completed adaptation strategies previously (e.g. Townsville and Redlands) and are using the program as an opportunity to ensure their plans remain up to date. Other Councils are commencing a CHAS just like Livingstone is.

    Information regarding the progress of each Council participating in the QCoast2100 program is available from http://www.qcoast2100.com.au/status-of-projects.

    It is also noteworthy that a large number of local and State governments around the world are already taking action, including Auckland Council, the City of Boston, Singapore and many more.

    We plan to learn from others and make sure that planning is as effective as possible for the benefit of the Livingstone community and the environment.

    Where did all of this come from?

    In Livingstone, coastal hazard studies have been undertaken since 2003, when a report was prepared by Connell Wagner to improve Council’s understanding of its coastal conditions and respond from planning and engineering perspectives. This strategic work was then refreshed in 2015, when Aurecon prepared an updated report, again to inform Council’s decisions on planning and engineering matters. 

    State wide mapping has also been released and is available for viewing from https://planning.dsdmip.qld.gov.au/maps.

    The work that is now underway is being undertaken under the QCoast2100 program, which was launched on 2 June 2016 by former Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection. As noted on the QCoast2100 website, the 3-year Program represents an unprecedented opportunity for local governments impacted by coastal hazards to get on the front foot with adaptation, in order to implement cost effective mitigation measures in the medium to long term, plan for development and growth, collaborate regionally and seek investment opportunities.

    How will this affect my property/asset?

    There are number of factors to note:

    ·  Firstly, State mapping currently identifies affected areas. However, the level of hazard, the values affected by it, and the adaptation options are yet to be developed.

    ·  The CHAS is a non-statutory document but will be one of the inputs to help inform a future Amendment to the Planning Scheme, which is the instrument to regulate land use and development. This is important because it is a statutory requirement to consider the implications of climate change when preparing Planning Schemes. However, the Planning Scheme is only one tool that is available to Council.

    ·  There are a range of measures that Council can consider as part of a CHAS, including asset management plans, financial plans and community plans. Thought will need to be given in due course to the best mechanisms, based on an assessment of the hazards and risks.

    Council is working diligently in the community’s interest and will keep everyone posted as the project progresses.

    What happens if we do nothing?

    The impact of climate change has implications and failure to act can incur economic, social and environmental costs. The outcomes of failing to act could result in the following:  

    ·  Avoidable costs or costs that can be reduced – expense of maintenance, recovery and re-location of assets.

    ·  Damage to the environment – possibly leading to irreversible damage to habitats and local species, consequential changes in the wider ecosystem.

    ·  Risk of litigation – arising from failure to obtain up-to-date scientific information on climate change and act on this knowledge.

    ·  Inability to insure property and assets – associated with lack of action to address increased climate change risk.

    ·  Failure to realise climate change opportunities – examples include tourism and crop cultivation that are often reliant on weather.

    The CHAS aims to assist with all of the above matters and provide as much certainty as possible to the community. Importantly, the CHAS will be based on a ‘trigger’ system. It relies on taking action when certain events unfold and at certain frequencies. If nothing happens, the CHAS will function as a ‘back-up plan’ that is periodically updated to reflect the best information available at the time. 

    Will this study affect my property value or insurance costs?

    Livingston Regional Council has no control or influence over the calculation of insurance prices. Similarly, the property market is subject to a number of external factors not limited to:

    ·  the occurrence of extreme events that damage property; and

    ·  development restrictions placed on areas identified as subject to coastal risks.

    Property valuation is a subjective, rather than an objective, science influenced by a range of factors including external elements as well as specific details such as supply and demand. Market conditions can alter at any given time.

    Recognising, addressing and adapting to coastal hazard risks are key to avoiding real damages to property and property values.

    Much of the data that will be captured in this study is not new and is already publicly available to insurers, financiers and investors. The Planning Scheme contains coastal hazard and flood mapping.

    Based on similar coastal studies undertaken in Western Australia, Council does not envisage that property insurance will increase based on the findings of this study (Source: City of Wanneroo).

    A comprehensive report by Hawke’s Bay (NZ) concluded that wider property market and economic factors have outweighed any stigma that may be apparent with the initial announcement of Coastal Hazard Zones. In this case, markets have continued to operate consistently in line with general market trends and there does not appear to have been any adverse effects to property value that can be identified as caused by the introduction of Coastal Hazard Zones.