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Focus: Planning reviews abound – Part II

19 June 2012

In brief: Three years after its appointment by the former government, the Coastal Climate Change Advisory Committee's report has been released by the Minister for Planning who simultaneously announced a relaxation of the requirements for the consideration of the impact of sea level rise on developments within existing coastal town boundaries. In the second of our series on reviews that will impact on Victoria's planning schemes, Special Counsel Meg Lee explains the effects of the proposed changes.

How does it affect you?

  • Land owners and developers seeking to develop coastal land within existing town boundaries would be wise to await the gazettal of the changes to the planning schemes before submitting permit applications, to ensure their applications are considered under less stringent climate change considerations.
  • The new requirement that a developer only has to consider a 20cm rise in sea level by 2040, instead of the previous recommendation of an 80cm rise by 2100 means any permit applicants that have had applications refused based on the previous requirement could now revisit their proposals if their land is within existing township boundaries.
  • Owners of land outside existing coastal township boundaries will remain subject to the current requirement for decision-makers to consider an 80cm sea level rise by 2100.
  • Before the amendment is gazetted, councils may have a small window to reconsider their township boundaries for the purposes of determining which sea level rise timeframe is required to be considered in planning for development.

Background

The current requirement set out in the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPPs) in clause 13.01-1 (previously 15.08) of the State Planning Policy Framework (SPPF) is that decision-makers should plan for an 80cm sea level rise by 2100. This requirement is supported by Ministerial Direction No.13 and a General Practice Note, both entitled Managing coastal hazards and the coastal impacts of climate change.

In our March 2010 Focus we set out some of the initial recommendations of the Coastal Climate Change Advisory Committee's issues and options paper. Many of these initial recommendations were carried through to the final report.

In formally responding to the report, the Minister rejected several of its recommendations, and stated that the former controls were too extreme and that the proposed changes demonstrated more common sense.

Committee recommendations vs the Minister's response?

In the table below, we set out in summary form some of the key committee recommendations as to suggested changes to the legislation and planning schemes, and a summary of the Minister's responses to these recommendations.

Committee recommendations Minister's response
To include a new objective in the Planning & Environment Act 1987 (Vic) requiring climate change impacts to be identified and planned for. Not supported. This is considered unnecessary because climate change is covered in existing objectives of the Act at s4(1)(b), (c) and (e).
To amend the public land zones and the Urban floodway Zone to include reference to climate change. Not supported. Climate change planning will be applicable across all zones and the purposes of the zones do not change because of sea level rise.
Introduction of a Coastal Adaptation Zone to help implement settlement and suburb strategic coastal planning. Not supported. Zones control land use, and should not be used to identify risks.
New Coastal Hazard Overlay to identify risk and hazard to 2100. Not supported. Physical mapping of coastal sea rise hazard areas requires completion first. An alternative option may be to amend the Land Subject to Inundation Overlay to include coastal flooding.
New Coastal Conservation Zone to be introduced to provide a zone to support protection and adaptation response to sea level rise. Not supported. Existing tools and schedules can be used.
Strengthen reference to planning for coastal climate change throughout the SPPF. Support in part. Agree to include an interim sea level rise planning figure of 0.2m by 2040.
Referral on coastal flooding and erosion will be a growing need, and skills in this field need to be developed. Support in principle. The Minister for Water will issue updated guidelines to assist water authorities to provide advice.
Ministerial Direction No.13 needs amendment. Support. The Direction will be updated as part of the forthcoming changes to the SPPF.
General Practice Note should be amended to avoid requiring coastal hazard vulnerability assessments for minor development in established urban areas. Support.

What does the Minister propose?

While no formal Planning Scheme Amendment has been prepared or gazetted at this stage, the Minister has foreshadowed that in the coming month, an Amendment will be made to the VPPs – namely, clause 13 of the SPPF – to:

  • include a new requirement for urban land infill development within existing township boundaries to take into account an incremental sea level rise to the year 2040, of 0.2 metres over current one-in-100-year flood levels; and
  • retain the existing longer term requirement to plan for not less than 0.8 metre sea level rise by 2100 for new greenfield developments outside existing town boundaries.

The Minister also announced that he will issue detailed guidelines to catchment management authorities and floodplain management authorities, to assist them to provide advice to councils assessing land use changes and development. He will also release state-wide inundation dataset and guidance material designed to assist state agencies, local governments, land managers, individuals and businesses to undertake adaptation planning.

What's next?

It is likely that the proposed Planning Scheme Amendment will be implemented by the Minister by way of an amendment without notice or public submission, given the long process that has already occurred. However, by releasing the report and announcing the changes before gazetting an amendment, the Minister has left the door open for interested parties to have a say on the final form of the amendments.

Further, prior to the implementation of the two-tier approach to sea-level rise timeframes, there may be a window for relevant coastal councils to reconsider their township boundaries.

The Minister also foreshadowed in his response to the report1 that Ministerial Direction No.13 and the associated General Practice Note will need to be amended to reflect the new two-tiered approach and to remove the requirement for minor developments to prepare coastal hazard vulnerability assessments.

Footnotes
  1. See responses no. 30 and 31.

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