Greens want Council and State to face climate crisis

Climate risks that can impact assets include major flooding

The Central Coast Greens have called for greater planning to adapt to climate change by Central Coast Council and the State Government following the recent release of a climate audit report by the Audit Office of NSW.

The report found support from the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) and NSW Treasury to help state agencies manage climate risks to their assets and services was insufficient and said the State Government should deliver a climate change adaptation action plan for the state.

“Climate risks that can impact on state agencies’ assets and services include flooding, bushfires, and extreme temperatures,” the audit said.

“Impacts can include damage to transport, communications and energy infrastructure, increases in hospital admissions, and making social housing or school buildings unsuitable.”

The Greens say state-wide planning is lacking but Central Council has done little to plan ahead for future climate change impacts on the region.

“Council’s 2019 Climate Change Policy included the following commitment: Embed climate change planning within Council’s Integrated Planning and Reporting Framework, namely the Community Strategic Plan, Delivery and Operational Plans and Council’s Corporate Plan,” The Greens said.

“We do not see any provisions for adaptation to the significant impacts of climate change in Council’s reports or matters circulated for consultation since 2019.

“If this practice continues while Council is under administration, a returning elected body of councillors will likely be required to assess the extent of the accumulated risk left unaddressed immediately.

“A complete review of the Council’s financial and operational capacity to provide for and meet those risks in a timely and responsible way will be required.

“In addition, at the State Government level, there is no legislative or financial support to provide LGAs such as the Central Coast with any ability to enforce planned retreat in local planning decisions should it be needed.

“Decision making is governed by the Department of Planning, Industry Environment, one of the keystone departments.

“(But the Government has) not yet developed department-wide strategies for mitigation and ameliorating impacts.

“A lack of these supports has enabled recent developments on the foredune and back dune areas at Wamberal Beach, the beach most vulnerable to erosion in NSW.”

The Greens said during the last 25 years there has been an increase of 1.3 degrees in the annual mean maximum temperature at Norah Head lighthouse and an increase in the number of days each year hotter than 30 degrees according to Bureau of Meteorology records.

They said we are in a climate emergency and steps
should be taken now by the State Government.

These should include: ensuring that regional climate projections are completed; implementing the 2016 NSW Climate Change Policy Framework to manage the impact of climate change; providing training to State and Local government agencies using the Climate Risk Ready NSW Guide and Course’ and ensuring that the DPIE comprehensively review its land-use planning and development guidance and Building Sustainability Index.

They said NSW Treasury should strengthen its guidance on climate risk-related matters and add a climate risk management attestation requirement to the Annual Reporting and Compliance Checklist.

“The clear message from this audit report to the State Government is that box-ticking and administrative nods are insufficient steps in expected governance standards,” they said.

“Climate risks need to be included in all streams of public administration, and that inclusion needs to translate to tangible and auditable results.”

Terry Collins