Central Coast Greens respond to NSW Audit Office comments about climate change adaptation plans

Central Coast Council’s 2019 Climate Change Policy included the following commitment statement: ‘ D2) 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.’

Like the NSW Audit Office, 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 state government level, there is no legislative or financial support to provide LGA’s such as CCC 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. NSW LNP Government 2016 platitudes have 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. Despite what Climate Change sceptics such as former Deputy Premier Barilaro believe, during the last 25 years, there has been an increase in the annual mean maximum temperature of 1.3 degrees at Norah Head lighthouse and an increase in the number of days each year hotter than 30 degrees (measured annually) of 35 days over the last 25 years (BOM 2021 of Bureau of Meteorology records).

We are in a Climate Emergency now, and rather than forcing through the building of footpaths around cliffs which will probably wash away in the near future, the local member should:

  • Ensure that regional climate projections from the NARCliM v2.0 model are completed, updated and distributed through the climate data portal and Adapt NSW website (Audit Office of NSW 2021) by the end of 2022.
  • Instruct the NSW Planning Minister to tell DPIE to implement the ‘2016 NSW Climate Change Policy Framework to “manage the impact of climate change on its assets and services by embedding climate change considerations into asset and risk management” and more broadly into “government decision making” ‘(ibid.). Training must be provided to state and local government and their departments using the Climate Risk Ready NSW Guide and Course with 3 yearly updates fully resourced, commencing the end of 2021.
  • Ensure that the DPIE’ comprehensively review its land-use planning and development guidance (including translation for council application), and the Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) requirements, and identify opportunities to promote climate risk management’ (ibid.).
  • Ensure that the NSW Treasury Strengthens its guidance on climate risk-related matters … adding a climate risk management attestation requirement in the Annual Reporting and Compliance Checklist’ (op.cit.).

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

Central Coast Council has effectively been put on notice together with the state government and any relevant authorities.