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State tells town planners: donít mention climate change

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The Queensland Government has told a regional council to remove all references to projected sea level rises from its town planning scheme, prompting fears over future liability.

In a letter to the Moreton Bay Regional Council, Deputy Premier and Planning Minister Jeff Seeney writes: “I direct council to amend its draft planning scheme to remove any assumption about a theoretical projected sea level rise from all and any provision of the scheme.”

Moreton Bay had made the assumption of an 80cm sea level rise by 2100, driven by climate change.

It is the same assumption documented by the Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Townsville councils in their planning schemes.

The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) fears the council will be liable for damages claims from property owners who build in vulnerable areas. The directive also raises concerns whether homeowners who build in low-lying areas will be able to obtain insurance. 

LGAQ President Margaret de Wit says the directive has created two town planning standards in Queensland.

“The Deputy Premier has justified his decision by saying that he doesn’t want to hold up or discourage development in Queensland, but there has to be consistency – there has to be one standard,” she told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“The question [for Moreton Bay] is, where does it stand legally in the event of liability claims because the town planning scheme failed to take into account the effects of climate change?

“If there is a claim, who is responsible?”

Cr de Wit says the LGAQ has been unable to obtain clarification from Mr Seeney.

“If the State Government directs a council to do something, surely the Government would accept that liability?” she said.

When asked to comment on Mr Seeney’s directive, the Insurance Council of Australia said the general insurance industry “closely monitors the climate change debate”.

“Its focus is on the need for Australia to become more resilient, through government action, to the community's increasing risk profile caused by extreme weather.”

Mr Seeney’s office did not respond to calls from insuranceNEWS.com.au.