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Climate change and environmental impacts on coastal communities

CHAIR —Welcome. As you know, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts and the Minister for Climate Change and Water have asked our committee to examine the environmental impacts of coastal population growth as well as the impact of climate change on coastal areas and to look at strategies to deal with climate change adaptation, particularly in response to projected sea level rise. Our committee has also been asked to look at existing policies and programs related to coastal zone management, mechanisms to promote sustainable coastal communities and governance arrangements for the coastal zone, in particular what role the federal government could and should be playing in that space. We are very pleased to have two representatives from the Shire of Broome.

Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that these hearings are legal proceedings of the parliament, and warrant the same respect as proceedings of the House itself. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. We invite you to make a brief opening statement if you so wish before we proceed to questions and discussion.

Councillor Campbell —Unless Darryl has something, we would prefer to answer the questions if we may.

CHAIR —Thank you. We are at the tail end of our inquiry and we are hoping to present a report to parliament at the end of October. We have come to this part of Australia because we want to get perspectives from shires such as yours in regional Australia, in particular areas that have a substantial influx of tourists during the tourism period, and to explore some of the pressures that that creates for local governments and shires. Also, in the process of doing the report, we are looking at governance arrangements for the future. A lot of local authorities that we have spoken to see an important role for the federal government in terms of the science of climate change and assisting local government authorities to cope with adaptation strategies to deal with some of the potentially negative consequences of climate change. We are also interested to be here because the federal government has been involved with the WA government in what is described as a strategic assessment process under the federal environmental act, particularly in relation to all the details in the lead up to the decisions regarding the proposed siting of the LNG industry and processing plant at James Price Point, not far from the city of Broome. That is another form of pressure on the coastal zone that we have not had much dealings with in other parts of the inquiry.

Councillor Campbell —Could I ask a question. Is this the first time that you are considering the matters of resource development in terms of coastal areas? I have come to this inquiry after reading the headline and the purpose of it. It says nothing about James Price Point. I am just curious as to whether it is mere curiosity on your inquiry’s behalf or are there other factors?

CHAIR —The committee will not be making any recommendations about that specific development but, because we were asked to look at the factors that affect Australia’s coastline and the pressures, and the environmental consequences of pressures, then obviously large-scale industrial development is one of the areas of potential pressure on the coastline, so we are exploring that.

Councillor Campbell —I appreciate that. I will make a comment with regard to that. It would be very difficult for us, as a local government, to comment on that. I asked the question, ‘Is there an identified site?’ There is a generic area. The answer was, ‘No, there’s not an identified site.’ ‘Is there a proponent?’ ‘Yes, there’s interest from a proponent.’ ‘Is there a development plan for that area?’ ‘Not that we’ve seen.’ ‘Is there precinct planning?’ Apparently there has been some generic planning for an oil and gas hub, as it was called previously, and there was advertising as long ago as last April, I understand. We were appalled as a local government to see an ad in the paper calling for plans for a generic oil and gas hub. At that stage there was no site. There were 42 sites, in fact, possible. To my knowledge, and I am sure I am backed up by the director of development services, the Shire of Broome has not seen a) a generic hub plan or b) a development plan, and nor have we been consulted about it. To be quite blunt, that is quite often a normal process, where local government is treated as a mushroom: ‘We’ll tell them what they need.’ I acknowledge that major resource development is done under state agreement acts. It is done between the government and the proponent in the main, in consultation, we hope, with traditional owners. It has been the practice for local government to be left out and, in this instance, we are probably as much in the dark as anybody. I am sure that does not help you, but that is about all we can say.

To be fair, we have had long-held concerns. We have had long discussions with Woodside about social impacts, particularly social impacts that will occur on the town of Broome. That continues to be our concern. In November last year, council had an 18-point resolution that they would not support the development of oil or gas anywhere in the Shire of Broome until such time that issues were addressed. There were 18 points, including environmental impact studies, social, economic, Indigenous—there was a raft of issues. We said, ‘Until these are addressed, we’re not prepared to make a statement in support, or otherwise, of oil or gas.’ Subsequently, in December last year a motion was put forward by councillors, and it was adopted by a majority, that the Shire of Broome did not support oil or gas at all in the Shire of Broome.

Nevertheless, from that point on, Mr Barnett made an announcement: ‘Yes, there will be a hub. Yes, it will be at James Price Point.’ One of our factors was that we would request the Premier to not make an announcement until all these impact studies have been conducted. Subsequently he did that. We now battle on trying to get all these impact studies addressed—not the least of which is the social impact study. The format in which that is being conducted concerns. It is a wide-ranging process. There is a lot of discontent in the town that not everybody is being spoken to. It is a very difficult process to speak to everybody. Baseline studies are being done. I am well aware of the environmental impact studies that have been done and the processes being run jointly, on parallel, with federal agencies and state agencies. That is, I believe, a first. I am aware of tourism impact studies that have been done. The social impact studies are currently being conducted, and of course there are other studies being done by the Department of State Development.

But, in terms of us being able to throw any light on what is proposed, we are guessing as much as everybody. The area has sort of been alluded to and the size of the plant has sort of been alluded to. But then there is whether the pipe goes underground, under the heritage trail; whether it goes over the ground; whether the tanks are partly buried; whether they are not partly buried; or whether they are a kilometre and a half back behind the sand dunes. We do not know.

CHAIR —And it is not out there.

Councillor Campbell —I am not being evasive; I am being honest. We do not know.

CHAIR —That is interesting. You made the interesting point about what appears to be a lack of embracing of the perspective of the local government authority in the area.

Councillor Campbell —I would suggest that the Department of State Development find it very difficult to do so because they do not have a project as yet. Woodside and the joint venture partners are agreeing to disagree on whether it should actually be brought ashore here or taken down to Burrup or, in fact, Darwin, which is a possibility. There is even a fourth possibility: that they do it by way of floating LNG. So, without a defined site and a defined project, we have an identified LNG site—a hub—with some tacit agreement from traditional owners, albeit I would respectfully suggest that there are some issues yet to be dealt with there. So it is early days.

CHAIR —I appreciate that it is early days. I guess the committee is not looking at the details of the proposed LNG hub. What we are looking at is the act as it currently exists at the federal level and the approach that has been taken under the auspices of that act for this more strategic, proactive approach where all the voices of stakeholders are considered before consent is given to a particular industrial development and how you feel that is working on the ground.

Councillor Campbell —I have to comment in so much as, in my limited experience, the state government is approaching this in a different way. Previously with state agreements they have just been put in place. They have been done by the state and a proponent, definitely without any consultation, without looking at the ramifications for local government and without creating income streams for local government to be able to manage the infrastructure required and the costs associated with it. In this instance, there is talk that, if this project proceeded, it would be a rateable property and a rateable proposition and local government would be rewarded, by way of rates, for having a project in its area. In the past that has never happened. A lot of the local governments have been beholden, with cap in hand, to the resource company or companies in provision of services. In fact, in the north-west—in the Pilbara particularly—there are mining company towns that revert to local government, and the company has been controlling the town. That is certainly not the case here. For the first time ever, I understand, the state is conducting the social impact studies rather than having the proponent do it. One would suggest that that may be a good thing, because the proponent is going to be looking at itself, probably with the view, ‘We’re going to have to fund a lot of this.’ My belief is that if the state does the social impact study—and the other impact studies, but I continue to be concerned about the social impact, because that is wide ranging—and gets it wrong, the state government are the ones that will have to fix it, and they are the ones that are able to fix it by way of responsibility.

CHAIR —Could you just outline for us some of the challenges that you have faced as a shire. We heard this morning from Mr Proctor about the huge explosion in population here in Broome—over the last decade in particular. What particular challenges has that brought with it for you at the council level?

Councillor Campbell —If I could, I will defer to Mr Butcher for a couple of comments, and then I will follow up if I may.

Mr Butcher —Yes. I think the best way to characterise that is that there has been a native title claim sitting across the town of Broome since the mid to late nineties, so there has really been no new land becoming available for urban development. Broome’s population growth over that period has been generally a little above the state growth rate. It has not been mind boggling—nothing like the peripheral councils in the metropolitan areas—but there has certainly been a significant growth. No new land was becoming available for that. There were a couple of pieces of private land that were being slowly subdivided. That was almost completed.

The state government managed to negotiate a piece of land out of the title claim—that was Januburu—to bring that forward. But the end result was that there was a shortage of land, increasing demand and a perception by the market generally that land supply was a problem, and the prices got out of hand. We had rents go from $500 a week to $800 to $900 a week within six months. There is no employment in town that can drive rents to that extent. People cannot afford to pay that sort of rent and earn the money that they earn in town. So people were leaving town. Families were leaving town. Things were looking pretty dire about 18 months ago. They have quietened down a little bit now but we are very apprehensive that unless we can get in front of that land-demand situation it can very quickly get out of hand and it will not be good for Broome.

I am not talking just about land for residential purposes; I am talking about land for industrial purposes and commercial purposes. We are feeling the pinch in all areas. The little bit of a slow down that we have at the moment is great because it is giving us an opportunity to catch our breath a little bit and get some other things in place. There was a determination made on native title in 2006 and there have been negotiations since then to put an ILUA in place. Once more, we are only the local government; we do not know the details! We believe that is coming very close to finalisation—to the extent that quite a large area of land has been released for development. We are currently engaged with the state in the structure planning of that area so that hopefully we can get the story out to the land market that we are well in front of the game.

CHAIR —Has most of this population growth come with the increase in tourism to the region, and to Broome?

Mr Butcher —I do not know that I would specifically lay it all at the door of tourism. Broome is a growing regional service centre. It is providing a lot of the state government services to the region and I think that it has as big a role there as it does in tourism. So I would not say that the population growth has specifically been related to tourism, particularly as a lot of the employment in the tourism industry is satisfied by a backpacker workforce.

Councillor Campbell —I will comment there. The prime driver in the Kimberley, by dollar, is mining. That is not so much the case in Broome. Basically, our next drivers are retail, government services, tourism, pearling and then agriculture—in that order. The bottom-line of those slide away pretty quickly. So in terms of our economy, government services are significant and retail is significant. Retail and tourism get blurred, of course. Pearling is sliding away a fair bit because of the world economic climate.

I will turn to some of the issues that we face because of rapid growth. The Department of Planning and Infrastructure has said that there will be between 25,000 and 30,000 people by 2021 without oil and gas. Currently we are probably sitting around 16,000. The census figures in this part of the world, particularly in Western Australia with a large Indigenous population, are basically flawed. It has been recognised and acknowledged by the census people that there were some problems with it. From a Broome perspective, it flows on to all of the issues. We are a regional centre. We have got justice, regional dialysis, regional court systems and a regional flow of itinerant people to the town for a variety of reasons—not the least due to the alcohol bans.

The land is the key to it, though. If there is no land, we cannot get doctors, nurses or teachers. You probably understand all this. One of the issues out of any major redevelopment is how you handle the rapid influx. In Port Hedland in 1994, 1995 or 1996 when they built the HPI plant there, their population went from 11,000 to 20,000 in five months. There was absolute chaos. That is why we have been working very hard for the last 4½ years, in discussion with Woodside in particular, before the state got involved in having a single hub precinct, to plan for these events.

The issues are really wide ranging. One of the things that government can do, which would be extremely beneficial, is to be proactive in the way they look at things, rather than reactive. With every other resource development in Western Australia, all of the impacts—the social impacts, the environmental impacts, the infrastructure requirements—are all dealt with retrospectively rather than proactively and ahead of the pack. I think we have a chance in Broome of managing the impacts of oil and gas, if they come, provided we are proactive about it. That is the message I have been singing to anyone who will listen, but particularly Mr Barnett and other cabinet ministers of the state.

CHAIR —We heard this morning from the Broome Chamber of Commerce. Mr Proctor was suggesting that Broome really needed a new economic driver, and he said that, in the absence of the big industrial development and the LNG plant in particular, Broome might wither. Do you have a view on that?

Councillor Campbell —I am in tourism. I have a caravan park, and we have been in tourism for 20 years. The drive market is fairly strong in Australia. I am of the belief that we are at risk in Broome with the fly marketing. It is an expensive destination. Our accommodation is expensive. And, comparative to what is being done with low-cost carriers across the world and to other destinations in Australia, we are at risk in our tourism industry. Certainly pearling is struggling. You are now virtually down to about one or two pearl operators who have been bought out. Paspaley are by far the largest operators, and they are basically operating most of their stuff out of Darwin. So pearling is declining significantly. Our agricultural sector is minimal, apart from pastoral cattle. There are probably up to 100,000 head of cattle going out of Broome port every year. I see that that will probably continue, but that is only a minor part of our economy here. So we need, to use Mr Proctor’s words, another economic driver. I think he is right on the mark there.

Mr Butcher —I would add that, in the past, there have been hiccups in the aviation industry that have severely affected Broome. Things like the pilot strike and—

Councillor Campbell —The Ansett collapse.

Mr Butcher —Yes, the collapse of Ansett. Any impact on aviation or on people’s confidence in aviation could suddenly see tourism fall flat. That can have a severe impact fairly quickly. Another range of industries and employment in the town is certainly highly desirable.

Councillor Campbell —I am not advocating that we have an airport full of big, strong young blokes in orange uniforms with silver stripes and wearing boots, and some of them with attitude. That is not what we are looking at; we are looking at economic opportunity for this region. You have to bear in mind that almost 50 per cent of the population are Indigenous people. The average age in Australia is 37. I think the average age in the Kimberley is 28. The average age of Indigenous people is 22. The birth rate is about three to one. There is a heck of a lot of young kids in the Kimberley who will not be going anywhere else and economic opportunity and obviously education and all the associated issues are paramount. It is absolutely essential for the long-term future of people in the Kimberley that some form of economic opportunity arises. If oil and gas is done in the way that I think the KLC and the traditional owners are trying to do it then that could be seen to be a good thing. If I were cynical, I would say that the government is encouraging that because the oil and gas proponents would be paying for it rather than the government.

Dr WASHER —Thank you for your presentation. You sound a little peeved and I would be too if I was the mayor and I had not been consulted as the local government body. This printout says the strategic assessment agreement, which is looking at social, Indigenous and environmental issues, is to be completed and presented to the federal government by November this year which is not far away.

Councillor Campbell —To be fair, as one of the stakeholders we have had input into it, but it is very difficult to have input into something that you cannot feel and touch. There is no project at this stage.

CHAIR —I thought the two governments had signed off on Prices Point as the location.

Councillor Campbell —It is the location, but the location is 11 kilometres long. There are sensitive areas that are heritage areas that must not be disturbed. There are areas that are more environmentally pristine than others. In an 11-kilometre stretch of coastline, it is very hard to define simple things such as where the road is going to go? For us that is important as the local government authority and it is important for our planning. We are currently undertaking a review of our town planning scheme and also a local planning scheme for the whole of the Shire of Broome, and that includes the Dampier Peninsula. Long-term use of land and long-term planning is integral to what we are trying to achieve at the present time. You might think it is just a road to somewhere, but it is not; it is part of an overall, long-term future plan. That is why we are a little critical. We are being asked to comment on something that we are not right across and I do not think there is anybody across it at this stage.

CHAIR —It is a work in progress?

Councillor Campbell —It is work in progress and one would suggest, given time lines, it is work that is being expedited and certainly would need to be carefully considered in the shorter time lines that are happening.

CHAIR —You made the point that the impacts occur after the event—

Councillor Campbell —Absolutely. I will not bore you with all of them but you only need to look at the failures in Western Australia, particularly in Ravensthorpe and the nickel mine there. They did not have enough housing, sewerage, power or water. They gave the local government a building worth about $700,000—and Ravensthorpe is a small town, mind you—and they did not give them any money for ongoing maintenance et cetera, and it just collapsed in a big heap. If you look at Karratha at the moment, you will find it is in disarray. They have lost a significant number of their staff. The local government is not coping with the pressures.

In the Shire of Roebourne, with the Pluto project, Woodside were under the belief that they would be flying everybody in and out, but suddenly 35 per cent of the people wanted to stay. In Karratha, some years before that, Woodside sold off all their houses, so the rents down there are between $1,500 and $2,000 a week. That could not happen in Broome. We would be decimated. The average take-home pay for a person working in hospitality in this town is just over $500. If they are paying $700 or $800 a week rent, they are not going to get there. You cannot buy Chicken Treat in Port Hedland at the moment because they cannot get any staff. The rent is $1500 a week, but the kids working at Chicken Treat get paid whatever.

—This is an example of where local government should be involved but has not been consulted to the level that you would have liked. Those kinds of problems happen everywhere in WA—in Busselton and right around the coast. State governments put in infrastructure and say, ‘Have a nice day,’ and they leave it to local government to maintain it when they do not have the resources to do it. That is something we commonly hear. With the sea change phenomenon, it is a very common problem. Local government is closest to the projects and it has to look after the people. I would have thought you would have been consulted extensively on the social and other environmental impacts because you would be the best placed to give input to this.

Councillor Campbell —We have certainly had some limited input to it, but where it is going to end up is an issue for us. The answer that is being given to us is: ‘You’ve got to start somewhere. You’ve got to have baseline studies when you are doing impact studies.’ That is fine but, given the time lines, we need far more than baseline studies; we need more concrete information so that we can adequately plan for it. We recognise the coastal implications of the town that we live in. I mean, anybody can ride a pushbike in this town. I think there is one hill, and it is probably 40 metres high. This town is very flat and very coastal. For instance, with buildings, we require 400 millimetre pads for the future. The AHD building, down in Chinatown, is about 800 millimetres, and we have buildings that are less than that. With the inundation of buildings by tsunamis, cyclones surges or, in the long term, an increase in sea levels, we face severe problems. We are aware of that. We recognise the state regulations for building near the coastline. Under the regulations, you have got to have a setback of 100 metres.

Coming out of the global native title negotiations there will be significant coastal management plans put in place. Because these plans have not been signed I am not at liberty to fully disclose how they will be managed and who will be doing the management, but I can say that there will be a significant coastal management plan put in place from Bard Creek, which is north of here, right around to Crab Creek, which is around on the bay. It is a significant coastal area. In all likelihood, that will be done in consultation with the conservation estate, the shire and the traditional owners. I have no doubt that that will address the issues of coastal inundation, building within the coastal strip and planning for the future. I will be extremely disappointed if that process does not take that into account.

Mr Butcher —Can I say a little bit there, Graeme?

Councillor Campbell —You certainly can; you are the expert.

Mr Butcher —If I could just add a little bit to what Graeme was saying there. Besides the anticipated and possible population growth of the town in the near future, we are already seeing some pressure on the population gaining access to the foreshore, and that is an extremely important element of recreation in the town. That is where most of the local population take their recreation. They go down to the beach in the evening. It is getting congested, particularly during the peak tourism time. The increase in population is going to make that a lot worse. In the future we are going to have trouble providing sufficient access, because it will have to be handled and controlled in a fashion that means it does not start to harm the very thing we are trying to get near to. It is going to be a difficult problem for the town, finding enough avenues for the population to access the beach and enjoy it.

Councillor Campbell —And ‘access’ does not necessarily mean by vehicle; there are other ways of accessing beaches. I go back to the point I made about a local planning strategy for the whole of the Shire of Broome. We will be taking into account building by Indigenous communities of tourism resorts in the peninsula. They are already getting built very close to the coast. Because there is a lack of control in these areas, we very much recognise that we need to take that into account in our local planning strategy in planning for the future for the whole of the Shire of Broome, not just for the town, in terms of where tourism facilities are located and where housing is located in relation to the coast.

Mr Butcher —That opens up another important point—that in a lot of these instances you have got reserves that are held by either ALT or some other government instrumentality specifically for Indigenous people. That basically means it is Crown land. There are then issues as to what controls apply to it and whether the local government has a say in it. We have tried at various times to have voluntary agreements in place with the various communities that they would come through the necessary planning and building type approvals, but there are real legal questions as to just how much of a right we have. As Graeme mentioned, there are quite a lot of developments that are just occurring out there in the bush. That is an issue that really needs to be addressed at some stage to ensure that—well, there are two sides to it: one is to make sure that the development that occurs is to the right sort of standard, because there have been instances of builders going through and doing a pretty poor job and nobody really caring, so that you end up with very sub-grade development in the region; and the other side is making sure that the development is in an appropriate location, not in areas that are too low or too close to the coast, and the necessary water supply and sewerage et cetera are properly looked after.

Councillor Campbell —If I could just expand on that as well. I would hate to be accused of federalism, but one way to maybe address these issues is with a uniform approach. We have an issue with the fact that a government agency does not have to submit plans and does not have to submit to any kind of local government regulation. Take the Department of Environment and Conservation; they can build on the reserves vested in them without any form of approval. In terms of ALT, the Aboriginal Lands Trust, we have no control over the health issues on their lands, even though we are expected to deliver municipal services. We have condemned some buildings on an ALT property in town; we have no right to do so, but the action has certainly brought the attention of relevant agencies to it.

It goes further if you cannot control your building or road locations. For instance, there are airport extensions going on in the area. There are 150,000 litres of fuel being stored right over the top of their water supply. To me, that seems to be absolute silliness, but we cannot control it. So, if you are looking at the long term—I will probably get shot down by some—a uniform federal approach in terms of how government agencies and government landowners have to be in accord with local government would probably be a good starting point.

Mr DREYFUS —Have you had enough assistance from the state government or the federal government, from your point of view, in grappling with the implications of climate change?

Councillor Campbell —I would say not. There are things that tend to happen. Bear in mind that there are a lot of local governments, so the federal and state governments cannot deal with them individually. I am a state councillor with the Western Australian Local Government Association, and there is some work being done by that group through the ALGA—the Australian Local Government Association—as well. There is some filtering down. I think the ALGA has a seat—it certainly has a place at the table—in COAG, so on a big, strategic picture there is representation. How far it filters down to a small municipality like us is another matter.

In terms of climate change, there is the carbon tax. You might say, ‘What effect is that going to have, perchance, on the shire of Broome?’ Look at the theory that comes out and the statements made about climate change that one person will generate around 10,000 tonnes of waste and that is equivalent to a thousand tonnes of CO. When the green paper came out, it was suggesting that towns of 25,000 people or more would pay a levy or carbon tax, and then that was going to be brought down to 10,000 people. That was us. If you look at the carbon payment you would have to make per permit, at $20, for us that was about $250,000. If it is going to cost you $40, that is $450,000 to $500,000. That would have equated to about a 4½ per cent increase in our rates that we would have had to charge our ratepayers, and there is no opportunity for offsets in the proposal that went forward. Due to lobbying and urgent action through the state Local Government Association and through ALGA, I understand that has been taken back to 25,000 tonnes of rubbish, but that is still a huge imposition without being able to recover it from anywhere. If you ask, ‘Is there an effect on local government?’ a 4½ per cent increase in rates for the ratepayers of this town certainly would be an imposition by way of climate change.

Mr Butcher —Possibly I could add something there. Broome is at the end of a 2,000-kilometre supply pipeline. Everything we use up here is carted in by truck. If we started paying the real carbon cost of supplying this town, it would be very hard to see how it can survive out of that. So there is a lot to be looked at. I am not fully aware of all the offsets that were looked at as to how that would be managed across the economy, but it seemed to me that most of them were aimed towards the metropolitan areas, with public transport and things like that. It seems to me that the towns in the regions, particularly the more remote ones like Broome, would be looking at some really hard times if that were to come to pass.

Councillor Campbell —Going back to an effective increase in population, possible oil and gas precincts and even the development of offshore floating platforms by Shell: they are generating significant waste streams domestically, industrially and, to a minor degree, in hazardous waste. We are already looking at the fact that we will need to provide a new waste management facility, if oil and gas come, within the next seven to 10 years. We probably have a life of 20 years. The state has a policy of zero waste by 2020.

Mr DREYFUS —What do you have at the moment, a landfill or an incinerator?

Councillor Campbell —We just have a landfill. In fact, it is to the point where we are no longer digging in the ground; we are actually creating our own hills in Broome. It will be a good vantage point to see across the flats.

Mr DREYFUS —A land pile-up rather than a landfill.

Councillor Campbell —Yes. I think the technical term is ‘mounding’. As a shire we are very aware of the necessity of a reduction in waste and of recycling. Recycling is nigh on impossible because of the cost of taking goods anywhere. We believe that out of the global negotiations we will end up with a greenfields site for our green waste and we will be putting in place mulching and treating that. That was recognised by the traditional owners as being a very worthwhile project and I am pretty confident that will proceed.

Our existing site will probably end up as a transfer station and we will need a greenfields site. We are looking at and exploring the opportunity of using that as a hub for businesses related to waste and recycling. There is plenty of land out there and it is away from lot, so there is a chance for us to set up an industry around that, bearing in mind that across the Kimberley it all goes in the ground. There are 226 Indigenous communities in the Kimberley, ranging from six or eight people to 800 people. The way their waste is treated is to dig it or not to even bury it, so there is an opportunity environmentally across the Kimberley to create an industry for treating waste properly. It could be backed up by an high temperature incineration facility to treat hazardous waste which is a by-product of oil and gas, but there is a significant amount of hazardous household waste that exists everywhere. It is just an opportunity we are looking at but it is relevant. Probably it would take around $10 million to set up a new waste management facility, just as a basic facility.

Mr ZAPPIA —Mr Campbell, does your council have a climate change strategy in place directly or specifically relating to your planning and development of the city?

Councillor Campbell —I will defer to the head of planning.

Mr Butcher —No, we do not. We managed to appoint an environment officer this year. We created the position. We are reviewing some plans that were put in place about 10 years ago and bringing those up to date. We will be integrating those into all of our processes.

Mr DREYFUS —My question to you before about assistance from state and federal governments was really directed at what you said, Mr Campbell, about the shire developing a new local planning strategy and a planning scheme for the whole of the shire. I take it you do not have one at the moment, or not a comprehensive one?

Councillor Campbell —We have a town planning scheme and we operate under an IDO in the outside areas. From a state perspective, yes, the Department for Planning and Infrastructure—now the Department of Planning, under the new split-up—are assisting the shire in some of the reports and some of the work. Perhaps you could explain it, Darryl.

Mr Butcher —I can just go through that. We have a town planning scheme that is covering the town of Broome, basically from Willie Creek across to the roadhouse—

Mr DREYFUS —And then another part that is the balance of the shire?

Mr Butcher —and then the balance of the shire, the big piece of land, is covered by an interim development order. We are preparing a local planning strategy for the whole of the shire, and we will follow closely on that with a new town planning scheme over it, basically to get the administrative mechanism out there. We know there is a lot of investigation that is to be carried out, but, if we can get the administrative mechanism in place, that allows us then to source funding or whatever to do whatever studies are needed in the areas of most concern.

One of the questions you asked before was: in what ways could we be possibly assisted? As Graeme mentioned there, the state government are helping us put that local planning strategy together. They are providing some manpower and also drafting. That is an important thing because we do not have any GIS capacity at all, so it is very difficult to communicate with government agencies or anything like that because everybody else is using it and they will give you a plan, and we have great trouble accessing that and integrating it with other aspects. But things that are necessary for the future, particularly with the climate change, are to get some really accurate mapping of the coastal areas. We get very infrequent aircraft photography, and it costs us a lot to get hold of it when it is done. I know that in our metropolitan area the flights are done on a regular, annual basis and it is available basically almost over the internet to be looked at. We do not have that luxury here, but I think the climate change aspect will require a finer degree of mapping than that. We have a lot of coastline here, so there is that aspect of it.

Another important issue is that there needs to be some agreement around the country as to what amount of change we are likely to expect. We have public infrastructure going in that has federal money, state money and local money going into it, with different useful lifetimes of that infrastructure, so we need to have an acceptable level of impact right around the country—

—That is a common refrain that we hear from NGOs, yes.

Mr Butcher —so that we can start to say: ‘Yes, we’re looking at that infrastructure. It’s going to last for X years. What provision do we need to make to ensure that we are not wasting it?’

CHAIR —We will certainly address that in our report.

Councillor Campbell —In further answer to your question, Mr Dreyfus, about what can be done, later this year council have approved the CEO to do a capacity audit of our staff and our capability to deal with our growth as it is and our projected growth should oil and gas come and the ability of our staff, the capacity of our staff, to deal with it. We have indicated to the Department of State Development that we will be putting our hand up for some help. I had an absurd situation in an inquiry that was being conducted through the northern task force, which was a group set up to look at the hub and oil and gas. They had the audacity to say to me, ‘Does the Shire of Broome want to be part of the planning?’ I said: ‘Excuse me; we are the planning. This is our shire.’ Then the question was raised, ‘Well, do you have the capability to do that?’ I said, ‘Resourced properly, of course we have.’ Resourcing it properly is the key to it.

We will be doing a capacity audit in October. That is a significant capacity report being done by professionals with a view to ensuring that we, the Shire of Broome, are capable of dealing with all of the issues, not only climate change. I saw in another municipality where a resource company paid for a couple of people to be employed by the shire and responsible to the shire but to deal with matters arising. One could suggest that there might be a level of bias or whatever, but to my mind it was working all right, because the person was governed by all the rules under the Local Government Act et cetera. That is another alternative, but it would get back to resourcing and capability. Look at the Shire of Roebourne and all that is happening down there; they have lost their CEO, their PA and a significant amount of their staff because the pressure has been too horrendous. That is not going to happen to us.

Mr DREYFUS —I thank both of you for putting your fingers on something that we think is a big issue across regional Australia: the gap between expecting local councils to engage for the first time in some quite fine grained planning and expecting them to do it without any resources. Traditionally, the situation of planning control is one where you have the township area subject to quite detailed planning control and the balance of the shire with either no or very limited planning controls. I do not know whether your balance of the shire chapter was as short as what we used to cite in Victoria. It was a little shire called the Shire of Glenelg, which went out to the South Australian border in western Victoria. It does not exist anymore, because we have had council amalgamations in Victoria, but it centred on the town of Casterton. There was a quite detailed first chapter of the planning scheme for Glenelg which described what was and was not to happen in the township of Casterton, and chapter 2 of the scheme was balance of the shire. It had a single sentence, which said, ‘In the balance of the shire everything is permitted.’ We are now looking for much more detailed controls than that and, in order to do that—to get a bit of detail control, particularly in the coastal context—we are going to need some resources applied to it.

Councillor Campbell —We have 96 communities in the Shire of Broome. I suggest that the majority of those are on the coast—why would you live anywhere else? The Shire of Broome extends from Eighty Mile Beach up to Cape Leveque, and the majority of communities there are on the coast or near the coast. Any of the outstations that are attached to them are all near the coast because that is where they go fishing and engage in traditional activities. In the Shire of Broome, basically, Indigenous people are ocean-going, fish-eating, turtle-eating or dugong-eating people. So the coast is paramount in the Shire of Broome.

Mr MURPHY —What do you believe are the most serious impacts of climate change on the coastal communities of the Shire of Broome?

Councillor Campbell —I will start. If the sea level rises then our city centre—if I may be so bold as to call it a city—the Chinatown area and the area at Roebuck Estate, which are very low compared to the rest of the area, would without doubt be inundated if there were sea level rises. The HD in Chinatown is about 800—less than a metre above sea level.

Mr Butcher —I could give an example there. On a spring high tide, if the tide gates are left open down in the town centre the main roundabout in the centre of town gets underwater.

Councillor Campbell —Historically, Sun Pic has been on spring tides. It was part of the deal when you went to Sun Pic: you sat on the deckchairs and took your shoes and socks off because the tide flooded in. There are lots and lots of photos of the big tides. There are tidal gates there to allow rain to escape and to prevent a very full tide from coming back in. Unfortunately, there was an occasion when they were left open and it was back to the old days of having water everywhere in Chinatown.

Mr DREYFUS —How long has Broome had those tidal gates?

Councillor Campbell —Eight or nine years?

Mr Butcher —No, would Paspaley have been there?

Councillor Campbell —Yes, Paspaley shopping centre was there, so it has to have been 12 or 13 years. That is one of the issues. Paspaley is in Chinatown itself. On the rest of the town that is on the coast, I cannot make the categorical statement that there will be no Gold Coast, that there will be no buildings on sand dunes. I cannot do that because it has not been signed, but I am very confident that there will be no buildings on sand dunes. What you see in Broome on the coast is what you will continue to see. I can say there is 100 per cent support for that from council and there would probably be 99 per cent support for that from the people of Broome. In terms of long-term development of the town, we will not be living on the sand dunes. If you go outside of Broome and head up the coast, we certainly have concerns about the fledgling tourism industry that is developing and the desire to whack buildings, huts and everything else right on the coast because that is where the water is.

Mr DREYFUS —On the primary dune?

Councillor Campbell —Yes, or on the flats, depending on whether it is flat rock structure, flat sand dunes or high sand dunes. There are no significant dunes in Broome; they are not screamingly high. But there are primary and secondary dune structures.

Mr Butcher —The pindan country that we have here combined with the very high-tidal energy and low-wave energy ocean mean that we do not have the build-up of dunes that occur along the south coast of Australia. The pindan is very fragile and very friable so any increase in sea level will obviously erode into that country.

Councillor Campbell —If you were to go to the peninsula, you see one of the most striking things. There is a very white beach and a red cliff, and the red does not leach into the white very much. It is quite striking. However, the cliffs are very fragile; they erode. If you go and look at Gantheaume Point on the southern side, the erosion by sea is causing the gradual removal of the cliffs. That is a good indication of what is happening.

CHAIR —Where is that?

Councillor Campbell —Gantheaume Point. Riddell Beach is probably the easiest way of describing where it is. It is a very fragile area that ultimately we will be closing off the access.

CHAIR —We should probably have a look at that while we are in town.

Councillor Campbell —If you have a chance, it will give you a very good idea of exactly what we are talking about. You will see the white beach and the red cliff, and the erosion under the cliff. It is not caused by wave action thundering into it; it is by gentle kinetic energy of the waves. Because the tides come and go, and they can be up to nine metres, if you get a little extra and there has been a cyclone around and there is a little—

CHAIR —Do you have any observations about the intensity of extreme weather events and cyclonic conditions, and whether they are becoming more frequent or more intense?

Councillor Campbell —I have only been here 20 years and it depends on how you measure cyclones. Over the last 100 years there have been about five or six cyclones that have directly hit Broome. They were basically in the days when the town was just tin shacks et cetera. The closest we have had to a major one was in 2000 when cyclone Rosetta came very close. I could not comment whether they are any more intense or not. Certainly without them we would not be getting any rain, so we like cyclones. But we like them 200 kilometres out, going very slowly down the coast and going to visit somebody else.

CHAIR —Not going straight overhead.

Mr Butcher —We have been talking about the eight-metre tide. For most of the time the sea level is well below the high watermark. An extreme event stands a fair chance of not really impacting above that high watermark. There is much less of a probability that we would be impacted severely by them. There is still the risk, but it is not as great as if you had a low tidal range as in some areas.

Councillor Campbell —When the Indian Ocean tsunami occurred it was mid-tide here. In fact the water went backwards which perplexed a few people who were fishing. I have to say there was a big argument between one husband and wife that she had got the tides wrong! It was mid-tide, so when it came in it did not have any effect. If we perchance copped a cyclone with a tidal surge at the height of a 8½ or nine metre tide—

Mr DREYFUS —On the king tide.

Councillor Campbell —Yes, on the king tide with a cyclone, we would be most certainly at risk.

Mr DREYFUS —What is the form of planning control in the Shire of Broome that has produced these setbacks so that there is no building along, for example, the primary dune at Cable Beach?

Mr Butcher —Basically, I think it is an accident that has occurred from the fact—

Mr DREYFUS —A happy accident.

Mr Butcher —Yes, the land is crown land and the Crown has not made it available for development. Where it has made land available, such as on Cable Beach itself where there used to be a caravan park, that was privatised and has been developed. The land on either side is still crown land and it is not available, so you do not get development.

Mr DREYFUS —So it is a true foreshore reserve; it has not needed to be subject to planning control because it is crown land.

Mr Butcher —It has been a happy accident because it is not a foreshore reserve. Often it has just been sitting there as unallocated crown land.

Councillor Campbell —Given the native title that has been subject to discussions et cetera the state has not seen fit to do anything with it. There has not been any lobbying from the townspeople or from the council and of course the traditional owners would not like to see it developed either. So across the board, as Darryl indicated, there is the fact that it has not been available for sale or development. I would anticipate that in the ILUA, the Indigenous land use agreement, which we will be signing, hopefully very shortly, there will be protective mechanisms. All I can say is that we have had discussions in that regard. I would prefer not to indicate at what level, but I would suggest that the will of the people of the town will be protected.

Mr DREYFUS —Thank you.

CHAIR —Thank you for sharing your insights and knowledge with the committee this morning. The secretariat will send you a copy of the transcript for any corrections that need to be made and we would be grateful if you could send the secretariat any additional material that you have undertaken to provide as soon as possible because we are planning to have our report finalised and tabled in parliament by the end of October. Thank you for sharing the perspectives of a smaller regional shire. As I say, a lot of our hearings have been in the capital cities with larger LGAs, so your insights about some of the challenges facing a smaller regional shire have been very valuable.

Committee adjourned at 1.09 pm