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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11455

Ms SAFFIN (7:06 PM) —The response to the report Managing our coastal zone in a changing climate: the time to act is now, prepared by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts, has been so positive in most quarters that it indicates to me two things. First, there is a recognised need for action to be taken to protect, mitigate and plan properly for our coastal communities, where approximately 80 per cent of our population lives; and, second, there needs to be clear, consistent leadership. The report has a recommendation noting that national leadership is one of the big issues, and that is clearly one of the things that is needed. I thank the chair of the committee—and the deputy chair of the committee, who has just joined us—for the work that they did in bringing together not only the report, which I have had time to work through if not to read in depth, but also the science, the knowledge of planning and all of the things that were needed for the report to come out.

I make a few points on it. I have a coastal community in my seat of Page. That stretches from Ballina down to Wooloweyah. Ballina is part of the coastline that goes into Byron Bay. I note that there has been lots of commentary about Byron Bay, particularly Belongil Beach. I have a rural seat but I have a coastal community. A lot of the population live there. It has been an issue of concern. The mayors of the local government areas that have that coastal strip have talked to me frequently about it. They have said that we need some national leadership on it as well.

The report also notes a number of other factors and says that we have to look at legal and insurance issues. Over the past period, in my area, as elsewhere, we have experienced some extreme weather events. They are increasing and their intensity is accelerating; therein lies the problem with climate change. I have had lots of flooding, storm surges and all sorts of events. Since I was elected and came into this place, I have been in a conversation with certain insurance companies and with members of the Insurance Council of Australia about this very issue, because it appears that some people could end up being priced out of insurance and not being covered. Some people are not being covered, but I have to say I have had good cooperation in working with the insurers when we have had those extreme events.

There are a few other things that have been happening. The report talks about the legal issue, but I would have to say that encroachment, erosion and liability are not new issues. There might be a different characterisation with the phrase ‘climate change’, but they are not new issues, particularly when you look at land law and climate change. There might have to be a different response, and there may be more of those cases that come before the court. Therein lies the challenge in what to do.

I welcome the report. It provides guidance, particularly for coastal communities, in my seat as well as elsewhere. I know that local government was looking forward to this report coming out. On the issue of national leadership, which is a big issue in the report, I hope that we can find some way forward. The last point I will make is that I have had a look at the maps that show what rising sea levels mean around Tasmania—because the work has been done on that since the fifties; the expertise is in Tasmania—and the extrapolated work looking at Australia, and it does give you some cause for concern. The report captures that. With those comments, I commend to the report to the House.