Ballina vulnerable to rising sea levels: Academic

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PICTURE: Ballina’s main street¬†was not always like it is today. This Richmond River Historical Society picture taken in December 1892 shows how vulnerable the town was to inundation before the North and South breakwalls were constructed.

Ballina has been listed as an area expected to hard hit by rising sea levels over the next 20 to 30 years.

Byron Bay, Cairns in far north Queensland, Wamberal on the NSW central coast and Sydney’s Narrabeen also were listed as areas under threat.

The Australian newspaper reported that sea-level expert and head of geosciences at Sydney University Peter Cowell, who is working closely with insurer IAG, said hundreds of thousands of homes faced possible inundation resulting from climate change over the next 20 to 30 years.

The Australian reported that all councils in Australia will review their town plans against a detailed assessment of risks posed by rising sea levels under a Rudd Government blueprint to prepare for coastal inundation.

It said work has already begun on the risk assessment through the Council of Australian Governments amid fears that councils could be approving development in areas at risk of future inundation.

The report came as the Local Government Association warned that councils already believed coastal areas were heavily exposed to flooding but felt helpless to act because of the lack of hard modelling of the risk.

The LGA also warned that councils could face a future torrent of litigation from landowners facing tumbling property values or flooding.

Meanwhile, North Coast councils are calling on the Federal Government to maintain funding to help their communities manage floods.

At a meeting of the A-Division of councils in Bellingen yesterday morning, mayors and councillors expressed grave concern that the Federal Government plans to scrap flood mitigation funding when the current round runs out at the end of June.

“The Federal Government is reviewing flood mitigation funding as we speak, and there’s concern amongst these coastal councils that they plan to pull the plug on it,” President of the Shires Association of NSW, Cr Miller said.

“Floods have severe financial, social and environmental impacts on these communities — for example by damaging crops and infrastructure and environment.”

A motion by Mayor of Kempsey Council Cr Betty Green calling for funding to be maintained was unanimously supported.

“Mitigation funding is crucial to help councils minimise the impacts of flooding on their communities, and is used for projects to maintain levy banks and repair flood gates for example,” Cr Green said.

“We’re calling on the Federal Government to ensure this funding is maintained at real levels so that communities like ours can stay afloat.”

Other issues raised at the meeting included the importance of support for sea change communities dealing with increased demands on services and facilities due to growth, and the State Government’s review of local water utilities and proposed cuts to the amount of funds councils get to build parks and child care centres.

“While visiting councils around the State during these tours two themes have been consistent — councils are really concerned about State Government moves to reduce councils’ role in planning and the management of water and sewerage,” Cr Miller said.

“There are many benefits of local control and severe implications for communities if that control is removed, and I have assured councils I will reiterate these to the State Government.”

A-Division councils are:

Local councils: Ballina; Bellingen; Kempsey; Kyogle; Nambucca; Richmond Valley; Tweed.

County councils: Far North Coast; Richmond River.

Associate: Clarence Valley.

* Southern Cross University academics will join one of Australia’s foremost scientists in presenting a one-day climate change workshop in Byron Bay on February 25.

Managing the Challenge of Climate Change is designed to offer managers and executives within the public and private sectors practical advice on how to tackle issues of sustainability as Australia struggles with the environmental, economic and social challenges posed by climate change.

Keynote speaker will be Dr Brian Walker, a senior research fellow in the CSIRO Division of Sustainable Ecosystems and chair and program director of the Resilience Alliance, an international network of research centres dedicated to sustainability.

The workshop is being co-ordinated by Southern Cross University and the Ethos Foundation and will be held on February 25 at the Byron Bay Beach Resort. Bookings are essential. For further information contact Ken McLeod on 0412 871 789 or visit the website www.climateleadership.net.au

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