Local Government Planning Responses to the Physical Impacts of Climate Change in New South Wales, Australia
Effective policy responses of governments to the impacts of unavoidable climate change require effective adaptation plans. This project focuses on the planning response of local governments in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, for adapting to the physical impacts of climate change, including sea level rise, coastal erosion, increased storm events, increased flooding, increased drought, among others. The study investigates the perceptions of local government planners regarding the actions taken within their local government area to plan for climate change, the effectiveness of that response, and what further actions they perceive should be undertaken in the future. This applied evaluation research is conducted within a postpositivist paradigm and is analysed through the theoretical framework of adaptive management. The results of the study indicate that more needs to be done to plan for the physical impacts of climate change, including conducting risk assessments, policy development, and collaboration between councils.
Australia has been identified as one of the most vulnerable of all industrialised nations to the impacts of climate change. This is due to the particularly high risk of significant impacts on hydrology, ecosystems, coastal zones, and human health and settlements (IPCC 1997). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has high confidence that Australia is already experiencing impacts from recent climate change, evident in increasing stresses on water supply and agriculture, and changed natural ecosystems (Hennessy et al. 2007). These current effects create urgency for Australia’s communities to plan for further impacts of impending climate change.
In 2005, the Australian Federal Government stated that governments have an important role in coordinating and implementing adaptation actions with private businesses and communities. There are three levels of government in Australia: federal, state, and local. Each has responsibility for implementing climate change policies. Local government is considered to be the level of government at the ‘coal face’ of dealing with climate change impacts. Recently many local governments in NSW have become cognisant of their legal obligation to plan for the physical impacts of climate change, and to take into account the risks that may be relevant to the physical, social and economic landscape of their Local Government Area (LGA).
The challenge for local governments is to identify and reduce climate change vulnerabilities and risks. This study examines whether the actions taken at the local government level in NSW to plan for climate change are effective. This research seeks to discover local government planners’ perceptions of current action on climate change planning in their LGA.
This project involved quantitative and qualitative methods to analyze survey data and an Adaptive Management Framework as a conceptual model. In June 2008, a questionnaire was sent to local government planners in each of the 152 LGAs in NSW. Fifty-six were completed (a 36.9% response rate). Findings from the study include:
- Collaboration among and between LGAs is key to planning for climate change.
- Overall, the majority of councils have done little to plan for climate change. About 80% of the responses showed that representative councils had not conducted risk assessments.
- Over the next five years, councils should conduct risk assessments, develop new or modify existing policies and management plans, collaborate with other councils, and/or conduct research and prepare reports to address the impacts of climate change.
Outcomes and Conclusions
The results of the study indicate that more needs to be done to plan for the physical impacts of climate change, including conducting risk assessments, policy development, and collaboration between councils in order to improve adaptive capacity in NSW local governments.
White, N.E. (2011). Local Government Planning Responses to the Physical Impacts of Climate Change in New South Wales, Australia. Ed. Rachel M. Gregg [Case study on a project of Nadine Elizabeth White of Southern Cross University]. Retrieved from CAKE: www.cakex.org/case-studies/local-government-planning-responses-physical… (Last updated December 2011)