find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Competition, Policy & Regulatory
Category: Other | Location: Sydney CBD, Inner West & Eastern Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Work with a well regarded Partner · Sydney CBD
View details
Commercial Litigation Senior Associate
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Sydney CBD, Inner West & Eastern Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Lawyers Weekly Australia Partner of the Year 2016, Insolvency
View details
MULTIPLEX Regional Legal Counsel (Vic) | 7 to 10 years + PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Career defining in-house role · Tier One international contractor
View details
Junior Lawyer - Personal Injury Law
Category: Personal Injury Law | Location: Parramatta & Western Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Highly specialized practice · Challenging role with great opportunities
View details
IR Advisor/Member Advocate
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: St Leonards NSW 2065
· Permanent (0.8-1.0 FTE) role in a developing team
View details
Climate change thwarts coastal plans

Climate change thwarts coastal plans

THE RISKS for coastal properties arising from climate change are firmly in the spotlight, following a recent decision by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).The case involved…

THE RISKS for coastal properties arising from climate change are firmly in the spotlight, following a recent decision by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

The case involved a successful appeal by the Gippsland Coastal Board — which was represented by DLA Phillips Fox partner Mark Bartley — to the South Gippsland Shire Council’s decision to grant consents for the development of six houses on coastal farmland in Torra, Victoria.

Applying the precautionary principle, the VCAT’s deputy president, Helen Gibson, overturned the consents, holding that the risk of more intense storms and sea level rises arising from climate change rendered the area unsuitable for residential development.

“We consider that increases in the severity of storm events coupled with rising sea levels create a reasonably foreseeable risk of inundation of the subject land and the proposed dwellings, which is unacceptable,” Gibson concluded.

While the case is not binding, the VCAT has marked it a “red dot decision”, meaning it is considered to be a decision of particular note and wider community interest.

Brendan Sydes, a principal solicitor at the Environmental Defenders Office, Victoria, believes the case is significant simply because there are so few decisions dealing with climate change-related risks.

“It will hopefully set the groundwork for future decisions, because this issue hasn’t really been broached by the VCAT before,” he said.

“I think that this is a belated but early indicator of the sort of decision-making that we can expect from courts and tribunals and it is also likely to at least be referred to [in other jurisdictions].”

According to Sydes, the VCAT has taken a unique approach to dealing with the uncertainty surrounding climate change-related risks.

“In other forums, the debate about sea level rises gets bogged down in the debate about whether or not climate change is happening, how much the sea level is going rise, and such things,” he said.

“Whereas here the VCAT has said ‘We accept that this is happening, and though we can’t be precise about how much the rise will be, we’ll apply a precautionary approach.

So in the absence of full scientific certainty it would be bad policy — contrary to fair and orderly planning — to allow development in these circumstances’,” Sydes said.

In determining that climate change considerations should be taken into account, the VCAT relied on the broad working of section 60(1)(e) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic). This section requires planning authorities, when considering development applications, to take into account: “any significant effects ... which the responsible authority considers the environment may have on the use or development.”

While Sydes believes the VCAT was justified in using this broad provision, he says the act should be amended to specifically require climate change considerations to be taken into account in planning decisions.

“I think it would be much preferable if we had an act that was up to the task of dealing with these issues,” Sydes said.

“We need fundamental reform in the Planning and Environment Act here in Victoria ... to make it very clear that climate change, and all the implications of climate change — not just sea level rises but biodiversity loss, transport issues and a whole range of other issues — need to be taken into account.”

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Climate change thwarts coastal plans
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Two businessman, growth
Sep 19 2017
Aus catching up on international arbitration front
Australia is starting to see a spike in international arbitration with this set to continue over the...
Prison
Sep 19 2017
Manson family killer suffered ‘miscarriage of justice’: former lawyer
A retired Australian barrister has published a book on the Manson Family murders of 1969 and called ...
Belinda Lonsdale, WA
Sep 18 2017
New judicial appointments welcomed in WA
The Law Society of Western Australia has congratulated Belinda Lonsdale on her appointment to the di...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...