Archive:  Planning and Climate Change

Last Updated  6/10/08



VCAT Strikes First Blow In A Climate-Change Affected World

(10/8/08 - P)  Applications for dwellings knocked back - land at risk from rising sea levels, says VCAT

In a benchmark decision, VCAT this week refused to issue permits for dwelling in a Farming zone along the coast at Toora, and it all came down to climate change.  This decision, the first of its kind in Victoria, builds on a decision last year in NSW where the Environment and Land Court knocked off a proposal involving the NSW Planning Minister because climate change and environmental sustainability issues had not been properly considered. 


the decision has been listed as "Red Dot" at VCAT and you can access it by clicking on or Gippsland Coastal Board v South Gippsland SC and Ors (No 2) VCAT 1545


You can also access information about RMIT's Moved To Design By Climate Change mapping of which Melbourne areas are predicted to be inundated by rising sea levels by clicking on;ID=6tha567p4mcaz


MRRA Says:

Giant strides...  Well done VCAT (Vice President Helen Gibson and Member Ian Potts). 


Now, when are we in Victoria going to get just as visionary and thoughtful about stopping development in drinking water catchments?  Not having any water puts an awful lot of people and 'things' at risk.  Logical step, isn't it?



California Has BALLS:  It's Pretty Simple - No Water, No Development!!!

(9/6/08 - E)  Ooohh, would that we did... How soon can Arnie make it to Victoria?

Living here in Victoria (or even Australia), it's difficult to imagine, isn't it, that someone, somewhere, is sufficiently visionary to connect the dots between increasing population/development and increasing water demand/water shortages and come up with "unsustainable". 


According to the New York Times, California already had a 2001 law that requires a 20 year water supply as a condition for building, but it hadn't been invoked until the water supply started drying up.  Things came to a head this week in California where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared an official state-wide drought - so it isn't "business as usual" anymore.  Not only are water suppliers now saying no, so too is local government, and residents are using the 2001 water requirement to object to on-going development.


Click to go to the New York Times article.


MRRA Says:

Perhaps the outstanding observation in the New York Times article is that "lack of sufficient water sources could become a serious threat to economic development in California..."   Wouldn't that be the case elsewhere?  Like Victoria?  Not to mention the "inconvenience" not having water causes to people and plants and animals and farmers!  Don't we need to take another look at the rapidly increasing number of people in Victoria and the as-rapidly dwindling amount of water we have?  Hhmm?   Or is that asking just a little too much...



NSW Minister For Planning's Approval Of Development On Flood-prone Coastal Area Overturned

(24/12/07 - P)  Court says Minister failed to consider climate change and ecologically sustainable development (ESD) issues

This is a fascinating, if not landmark, decision, and is featured on the Deacons' website:  (Deacons is a major international law firm with more than 900 lawyers across Australia and Asia).  Here is part of Deacons' comment on the decision


"Not only does the decision provide a useful history lesson of the development of ESD and the emergence of climate change litigation within Australia, it has great importance for proponents of developments within coastal areas and consenting authorities required to grant approval to such developments. It is clear that the courts are increasingly inclined to have regard to the climate change science; to quote from the decision “Climate change presents a risk to the survival of the human race and other species. Consequently, it is, a deadly serious issue”."


Please note that the planning system in NSW works slightly differently than it does in Victoria.  Our understanding is that the NSWLEC (Land and Environment Court). which made this decision, is a similar body to VCAT in Victoria.


MRRA Says:


What giant strides...  Well done, NSW Land and Environment Court!


We would be very interested to know if someone has done the same type of analysis of legislation/policy in Victoria.  Our information is that the Planning and Environment Act and State planning policy in Victoria do require (variously) sustainability, and Ecologically Sustainable Development [ESD], to be considered.  Would that they were... 


Examples of other decisions relative to this issue are given in the decision, and the fact that they all seem to be from overseas suggests Australia is behind on sustainability and climate change issues. 


If this decision reverberates around the nation, as it should, it would set a legal precedent that has deep ramifications.  For starters, it would mean wholesale change to Victoria's planning system which, since the Kennett era, has been unashamedly designed to promote and facilitate indiscriminate and ad hoc development, the kind which takes Victoria in the opposite direction to sustainability.  To move with the times, Victoria would need to revert to a planning system which demands that sustainability comes first.  MRRA believes the time is ripe for this to occur, that there is sufficient and growing public support for sustainability to be legislated into planning as the primary consideration. 


If that was to happen, the goats would rapidly be separated from the sheep as decision-makers - some for the first time - came to grips with prioritizing principles instead of profits and personal aspirations.  Our hunch is that some of them wouldn't be able to cope with having to do more than just wielding the rubber stamp, and pushing business as usual.   Surely things can be done better than they have been.  Perhaps the time has come for a clear out...