Australia: How town planning can respond to the rising challenges of climate change

HG Alert: 15 October 2013
Last Updated: 17 October 2013
Article by David Nicholls, Michele Muscillo, Olivia Williamson and Robyn Lamb

Climate change and coastal management are hot topics of discussion and research around the world.

An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released on 27 September 2013 concludes that human influence on the climate system is clear and global warming is unequivocal. The conclusions contained in this latest IPCC report are relevant to future development and re-development, particularly for coastal communities.

In Queensland, the State government has been reviewing its coastal management policies and legislation. Earlier this year the Coastal Protection State Planning Regulatory Provisions (SPRP) were released and are expected to remain in force until the new single State Planning Policy (currently in draft form) is finalised, which is expected to be later this year. Furthermore, the State has now released for consultation the Draft Coastal Management Plan (Draft CMP) which is open for submissions until 21 October 2013.

The IPCC's Working Group I Report

Between 23- 26 September 2013, IPCC Working Group 1 meet in Stockholm to finalise a report assessing the physical science evidence for climate change and its causes. The full report will be published online in January 2014, however a summary for policy makers was released on 27 September 2013. This summary, which is approved by all member countries of the IPCC (including Australia), included agreed statements on key findings and uncertainties including:

  • Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evidence from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming and understanding of the climate system.
  • Global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century and will very likely1 exceed that observed during 1971-2010 due to increased ocean warming and increased loss of mass from glaciers and ice sheets.
  • It is very likely that sea level will rise in more than about 95 percent of the ocean area. About 70 percent of the coastlines worldwide are projected to experience sea level change within 20 percent of the global mean sea level change.

The contribution from Working Group I is the first of four reports which will collectively comprise the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report. Having finalised the physical science basis document, further contributions will be finalised by IPCC Working Group II (due to meet on 25-29 March 2014) dealing with the impacts, adaptation and vulnerability relating to climate change and Working Group III (7-11 April 2014) assessing the mitigation of climate change. The Fifth Assessment Report is expected to be finalised in November 2014 and will replace the last comprehensive assessment of scientific knowledge on climate change undertaken in by the IPCC in 2007.

Impact of the IPCC's Report

The IPCC report warning about sea level rise is relevant to Queensland, a state where most people live near the coast. It prompts the question, how will town planning respond to the rising challenge of climate change and its implications for sustainable development?

While the IPCC assessments are relevant to policy formulation, they are not policy –prescriptive. It will be up to Federal, State and Local Government what actions to take in the wake of the latest IPCC report. The IPCC however is calling for all levels of government to take the findings contained in the report seriously.

Although climate change implications on sustainable development are more likely to feature in the IPCC Working Group III report to be finalised next year, it is prudent to be alive to the contents of the latest IPCC report and its potential to inform the review of planning regulation which is currently occurring in Queensland. The scientific findings and predictions detailed in the report are likely to underpin how areas and infrastructure at risk are identified. For example, the technical guide published by the State Government used to determine coastal hazard areas currently relies on the sea level rise projections in the 2007 report of the IPCC.

The findings in the latest IPCC report are therefore relevant in the context of the draft Coastal Management Plan which is currently available for public comment.

Draft CMP

The existing Queensland Coastal Plan is a two part document comprised of a policy and a State planning policy. The Coastal Protection SPRP came into effect on 26 April 2013 and, amongst other things, suspended the operation of the State Planning Policy for Coastal Protection (SPP 3/11). The State's intention is that coastal management will be dealt with by the final version of the Draft CMP, which will be a draft statutory amendment to the existing coastal plan; operating in tandem as one of the parts of the new single State Planning Policy.

The Draft CMP is essentially a policy document for managers of coastal land and waters. It does not specifically deal with land use planning or development which is regulated under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009.

The Draft CMP is mainly directed towards owners of private coastal land and managers of State and local government-controlled land (e.g. Councils), as the entities responsible for managing public coastal land and beaches. It provides guidance for planning, managing and sustainably using coastal land and resources within the coastal zone, including resource allocation decisions, certain works and matters such as public access to beaches.

The key management issues identified in the Draft CMP are:

  • Maintaining coastal landforms and physical coastal processes;
  • Nature conservation;
  • Maintaining access to coastal resources for indigenous cultural activities;
  • Public access;
  • Use of coastal resources (land and quarry materials);
  • Management planning; and
  • Knowledge sharing and community engagement.

Information and forms for making a submission in relation to the Draft CMP are available on the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection's website. Submissions must be made by 5pm on Monday, 21 October 2013.


Scientific findings from the IPCC Working Group I report on anticipated sea level rise and other weather phenomenon will undoubtedly underpin the adaption and use strategies for land on the coast.

Previously the State Government has relied on IPCC findings to inform coastal management use strategies (for instance, to underpin the coastal hazard area criteria and mapping). Given that the timing of the latest IPCC report and finalisation of the draft CMP coincide, it seems evident that Queensland coastal planning will draw on the latest work undertaken by the IPCC. Land use and development decision making within the coastal zone however is not limited to only state planning policies. The conclusions of the latest IPCC Working Group will also be relevant to the preparation of new local planning schemes for areas along the coast. For instance, how the projected average sea level rise will inform appropriate setback distances and acceptable planning timeframes for development immediately adjacent to coast lines.

HopgoodGanim's Planning and Environment and Climate Change teams are monitoring the compilation of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report and amendments to Queensland's policies and legislation in relation to coastal management with interest.


1In the Summary for Policymakers, the following terms are used to indicate the assessed likelihood of an outcome or result: virtually certain 99-100% probability; very likely 90-100%; likely 66-100%; about as likely as not 33-66%; unlikely 0-33%; very unlikely 0-10%, and exceptionally unlikely 0-1%.

© HopgoodGanim Lawyers

Award-winning law firm HopgoodGanim offers commercially-focused advice, coupled with reliable and responsive service, to clients throughout Australia and across international borders.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

David Nicholls
Michele Muscillo
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions