WHAT coastal communities in south east Australia including at Narooma might look like in 2030 and how they may need to adapt in a shifting climate scenario is the focus of a new report published last week by University of Canberra researchers.
The report “South East Coastal Adaptation (SECA): Coastal urban climate futures in SE Australia from Wollongong to Lakes Entrance” was published by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF).
NCCARF leads Australia’s climate change adaptation research and communication program.
The release of the sea-level rise report was timed with the recent wild weather and huge seas off Narooma and coincidentally the CSIRO also released a study saying wave heights could increase by 10 per cent, not boding well for local low-lying areas.
The report states Eurobodalla Shire Council and other local governments are facing increasing pressure to develop coastal areas, while Local Environment Plans were not doing enough to take into account rising waters.
“The overall trend in both jurisdictions over the last 12 months has been to reduce the level of regulation on coastal planning, related catchment management and planning for climate change,” the report reads.
“This has significant implications for managing risk for coastal communities in the context of climate change and planning for coastal urban futures.”
Considering environmental, social and economic change along the south east coast, researchers found that the region is already living with an environment of extreme climate events, that these will increase by 2030 and that there are a number of vulnerable ageing communities in the region.
Professor Barbara Norman, foundation chair of urban and regional planning at the University of Canberra, was chief investigator of the project which involved eight other researchers from the University, as well as colleagues from the Australian National University and the University of Wollongong.
Professor Norman said they also found a need for improved regional governance mechanisms for better coordination and integrated decision-making that considers immediate and longer time frames to support sustainable coastal planning and adaptation to climate change.
“What is evident is that to be climate-adapted, a community requires effective planning, decision-making and implementation of responses to current and emerging climate impacts,” Professor Norman said.
“But this needs to incorporate an integrated perspective in several dimensions, including climate and non-climate drivers, different sectors, impacts, responses and different levels of government.”
Narooma under the microscope
The report looks at specifically at the Narooma area as one its case studies.
It states the Narooma Flats are a highly vulnerable location with extreme risk of inundation.
“Planning strategies in the Local Environmental Plan do not account for this risk with the Flat Main Street and the Flat Accommodation precinct designated for future growth,” the case study reads.
Possible and preferred strategies include planning for climate risk (through statutory controls, emergency management (evacuation routes); managing urban form to accommodate demand for health services and planned retreat (abandonment and resettlement); coastal spaces for adaptation (buffers); building adaptation (increase in floor levels, water flow through designs against floods and inundation); coastal protection (such as physical and infrastructure interventions including sea walls).
A recent analysis projected shoreline recession of approximately 30m for both barriers by 2100 and storm cuts in the order of 134 m3/m for Bar Beach and 157 m3/m for Narooma Beach (SMEC 2010).
Much of the township, particularly in the Narooma Flats area, is low lying and situated upon a mature part of the flood tide delta, and was identified as vulnerable to submergence under a 100-year average return interval storm event (SMEC 2010).
Under the Narooma Township Development Control Plan (2012), the Flat Main Street is to become the main tourist area for the town.
This area is vulnerable to inundation and it is perhaps unusual that no minimum finished floor level, including an appropriate freeboard level, has been defined.
Narooma Flats are a highly vulnerable location with extreme risk of inundation.
The report goes onto say that coastal hazard is considered high risk at Dalmeny along Mummuga Lake (risk of inundation) and Narooma Flats (risk of inundation).
The NSW Government has made funds available under the Floodplain Risk Management Grants Scheme and a flood study for districts of the Narooma Township, including Wagonga Inlet, Dalmeny and Kianga will be prepared. These districts are significant flood-affected areas with over 200 residential lots and 40 commercial properties below the 2.2 m Australian Height Datum flood levels.
The number of habitable buildings including detached residential buildings, medium-density buildings, affordable housing and tourism accommodation exceeds 450.
The area will be significantly impacted on by sea-level rise with the same flood-affected properties being inundated by daily tides within a 50-year planning period.
“Draft LEPs need to be consistent with the NSW Coastal Policy, the Coastal Design Guidelines (2010) for NSW and the Guidelines for Preparing Coastal Zone Management Plans (2010),” the report reads.
“All development consent authorities within the NSW Coastal Zone must consider the effect of coastal processes and coastal hazards and potential impacts, including sea-level rise, on proposed development.”