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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11433

Ms REA (5:17 PM) —I welcome the introduction to the parliament of this report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts, Managing our coastal zone in a changing climate: the time to act is now. I do not serve as a member on the committee, but I am very keen to speak to this report because, representing the southern bay-side suburbs of Brisbane, on one of the most beautiful stretches of water we have in this country, Moreton Bay, I am very concerned about some of the analysis and information that has been provided in this report about the impact on my electorate and the businesses and residents within its boundaries.

When we see information regarding rising sea levels, we are concerned, but there is also clearly a concern regarding the increase in extreme weather events and the impact of high tides and storm surges on any businesses, property and residences along any part of our coastline, particularly in Queensland. That is certainly of concern, so I welcome the committee’s deliberations in this regard and certainly support the recommendations and thank the committee members for their efforts.

As has been said on many occasions in this place, the impact of climate change is one of the greatest challenges that we will see within our lifetime. If we as a government, as a community, indeed as a global community, do not start to address some of the impacts of climate change, the reality will be not just a document this thick; the reality will be the impact on people’s lives and their livelihoods. I therefore welcome, as I said, this very comprehensive report.

I welcome first and foremost that there is a great deal of analysis, information and scientific evidence contained within the report that I hope will, once and for all, convince those who are sceptical or reluctant to take action on this matter that we cannot continue that debate any longer, that we must move on and start to take serious action as a parliament and as a country. In that vein, I urge all members of this parliament to support the proposal of the Minister for Climate Change and Water for a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

What is critical about this report, as I have already mentioned, is that it talks about two key impacts which I think will be significant for my electorate of Bonner. One is rising sea levels. We see that climate change is impacting on sea levels and will continue to do so. The bayside suburbs are very old and very well established. So, whilst we may not have the issues around future development that exist in other parts of the Queensland coastline, those well-established communities depend on their land being stable and not being impacted on by rising sea levels. It is also a very beautiful part of Brisbane because it contains the river and several major creek catchments—the most notable being Bulimba Creek and Tingalpa Creek. All of these creeks and the river in our part of the electorate are tidal, so high tides increasing flooding and the combination of heavy rainfall and storm surges have a very direct and real impact on many residents in my electorate. First and foremost this report has given us some very clear information that not only spells out the consequences of what we are doing now but also talks about ways in which we can attempt to mitigate climate change and protect people in the future.

Indeed, even in the last week we saw the impacts of extreme weather events. Brisbane, being a subtropical city, is obviously well known for its rainfall and its greenery. Up until last Monday, we had gone for 138 days without rain—a fairly significant event in Brisbane’s climatic calendar. That dry period was broken by an incredibly severe storm on Monday night. I know it was severe, because my husband—with other partners—had flown back after attending the Prime Minister’s wife’s lunch for Pink Ribbon Day. They landed in Brisbane at 6.30 and sat in a plane on the tarmac for 2½ hours because of the severity of the storm and lightning strikes, which prevented staff from going out, getting baggage and taxiing the plane in. Not only did I suffer personally an extreme weather event by having a fairly frustrated husband on the other end of the phone; it disrupted the running of the airport quite dramatically. Planes were delayed. People travelling to Sydney had to find overnight accommodation because of the curfew. The social and psychological effects as well as the economic effect of these events were clearly witnessed as recently as this Monday.

I am very pleased that this report provides not just good analysis and information but very clear recommendations for the way forward. It does so in three key areas. There are 47 recommendations, and I also will not read them out. That number of recommendations indicates not just the seriousness of the problem but also the commitment of the committee to trying to tackle this problem in a very real and detailed manner. The first part of the report and its recommendations deals with the need—indeed, desire and necessity—for national leadership on this issue. The impact of climate change is of national interest and therefore as a nation we need leadership to deal with it. I am very pleased that there are a vast range of recommendations that deal with this issue: a COAG intergovernmental agreement on the coastal zone; a national coastal zone policy; the establishment of a national coastal advisory council; the establishment of a national coastal zone database; the promotion of 2012 as the Year of the Coast; the establishment of a national catchment coast marine management program; and, I think very importantly, funding support for the Australian coastal alliance in providing national information and communication information and interface between research organisations, local government authorities and other coastal stakeholders.

I guess they come across purely as words, policies and advisory bodies at this point in time, but we all know that leadership comes from good coordination, good facilitation and the ability to bring everybody together—all of the stakeholders and interest groups—and to get everybody working together to deal with this issue. These are not just words on paper, they are very real and important developments that I think will help to resolve this issue.

Another thing that is very important about these recommendations is that not only do they talk about national leadership but also working with the stakeholders at all levels of government. Coming from a local government background I understand full well the massive impact of planning decisions, made by councils up and down the coast of Australia, on local communities. In my own area very significant wetland areas in Hemmant and Tingalpa are subject to development. There are flooding issues, there are issues of tidal impact—the floods are impacted by tides—we are right on the border of a Ramsar site, Moreton Bay and Moreton Island, so every single decision by the council to clear or to develop land within those areas has a massive impact not just on the property itself but also on neighbouring properties. Once again leadership is needed to start to get councils to think strategically, not one development application at a time and certainly not simply giving regard to the existing zoning. It is important for them to have the information they need to get an understanding of what they need to plan for in terms of future changes.

I also see that there are a lot of recommendations regarding coastal climate change and its impact on people and their livelihoods. In this report many speakers talk about issues around liability and insurance, genuine issues that we are going to have to tackle and that will have great impact on people living in these coastal communities, on the insurance industry and on our economic prosperity. At last we have the documentation to give us the information that will provide some policy development on this matter.

In terms of the impact on residences and issues of liability insurance it is probably not as significant for my electorate, but I think the member for Bowman will be very interested in those issues and the impact of rising sea levels. He has many island communities and many canal estates in his electorate. I would say that he will grab this report with gusto and encouraging whatever action can be taken to protect his local residents as well. From my perspective I am concerned about the environmental impacts that have been outlined in this report.

I have talked about creek catchments, the magnificent jewel in the crown of Moreton Island which is within my electorate, and many of the catchment areas like Hemmant and Tingalpa, the areas around Lota Creek and Wynnum Creek. The mangroves that run along the bay are very important and I am pleased to see that there are recommendations that I believe will go a long way to protecting those very precious areas. A proposal to amend the EPBC Act to address the cumulative impacts of coastal development, as I said not just isolated development applications, but the cumulative impact of allowing all the land that is currently zoned for development to be redeveloped. What will its impact be in terms of runoff, flooding and on our flood plains? An increase in the number of coastal wetlands classified as Ramsar sites and ensuring that all Ramsar listed wetlands have effective management plans. I believe that we have good management plans for Moreton Island and Moreton Bay, but we need to be vigilant about making sure that they are adhered to and that the recommendations and actions within those plans are implemented.

I also commend the work of one of my local environment groups, particularly Daryl Evans, who runs the Hemmant and Tingalpa Wetlands Conservation Group. He is very diligent in his commitment to protecting these wetlands and he is very diligent in providing me and others with significant information regarding these issues. Indeed, Daryl has been providing articles and information about rising sea levels for a number of years now. I am pleased to see—and I am sure he will be pleased to see—a report coming out of the Australian parliament that reinforces the arguments that he has been presenting. I join with him and will be approaching the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts to have those wetlands considered as a Ramsar site.

What is also important is the recommendation that Commonwealth and state natural resources ministers develop an action plan to improve the management of coastal biodiversity, including coastal buffer zones, habitat corridors, nationally consistent coastal and marine biodiversity monitoring and reporting frameworks, and coastal and marine biodiversity regional planning processes that incorporate regional climate change adaptation plans. That was a very long sentence; it is a very long recommendation. But, for the environment of Bonner, it is very significant.

Brisbane is the most biodiverse capital city in this country. Its biodiversity comes from its proximity to the mountains of Mount Coot-tha and the Great Dividing Range, from its magnificent river and extensive creek catchments, and of course from it feeding into the beautiful Moreton Bay. If we do not get biodiversity right around our coastal suburbs and regions within the city of Brisbane then the biodiversity of the whole city will indeed be impacted badly. I want to reinforce that recommendation because, whilst it is wordy and may sound confusing, it has very important impacts for the community of Bonner and the city of Brisbane.

I once again welcome the committee’s deliberations and appeal most strongly to the parliament and all of its members to understand that we must take action in order for the impacts in this particular report to be mitigated. It is not too late. We need to reduce our emissions if we are going to deal with rising sea levels. We need certainty for businesses and communities, not just those existing ones but those in the future. We certainly need to protect the lives, the livelihoods and the economy of existing and future residents, particularly in Bonner. I commend the report to the House.