Climate Change & Changing Regulations

2 Storey House Plans
Lifted well and truly above the flood level

For a while now some of us have felt the effects of climate change assumptions have had on minimum floor level assessments on flood affected land.

Since 2013, councils have included an assumption that sea levels will rise by .8M over the next 100 years. The requirement was put in place by the Bligh government and obliged all councils to take into account a rise in sea levels in their planning schemes.

All Coastal Council regulations Now Comply With State Legislation

All councils, including Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, More Shire and the Gold Coast have included a provision for the effects of rising sea levels due to climate change in their planning schemes.

It was the case that one could safely, and reasonably assume a minimum floor height 500m above the maximum recorded flood level on a property. Most coastal councils have adjusted this to 1.0M above the maximum recorded flood level.

While these changes were flagged by the Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability in the Bligh State Government – Kate Jones in 2010, as well as in numerous inquiries and studies into mitigating the effects of flooding after the 2010 floods in Brisbane, The flooding in Bundaberg in 2011 and Cyclone Yasi; the proposed changes did sail under the radar, and many planners were caught unawares when council were officially required by State legislation to amend their regulation to account for the effects of rising sea levels due to climate change.

Breaking Eggs To Make An Omelette.

Getting The Pooll Above The flood Level

In recent months these regulations have directly affected three of our projects. In every case we were caught unaware, having relied on Floodwise Property reports and flood reports from council. Two projects were in Brisbane, one on the river.

In both cases the minimum floor levels were raised 500 mm, putting pressure on us to quickly amend the designs, including engineering and siteworks. One of them was a fairly routine exercise, but we found ourselves with a conundrum with the other because the application spanned the transition period.

Floodwise Reports Become Inaccurate

Not only did Brisbane amend the minimum floor height requirements on flood affected property, the Brisbane 2014 Planning scheme made the construction of 3 storey dwellings extremely difficult and subject to specific development planning approval. The new regulations came into effect on the 1st July 2014. Our application was lodged on the 24th June 2013. While we did receive planning approval for a 3 level home because the application was assessed under the old scheme, the flood level requirements were assessed under the new planning scheme.

This meant the entire home had to be raised 500 mm – triggering height restriction covenants. While the saga was resolved, it did highlight just how complicated implementing changes to the City Planning Schemes are.

State Government Now Changing The Law By Regulation

Today we have news that the Deputy Premier of Queensland – Jeff Seeney has intervened to direct that Moreton Shire Council remove all references to Climate Change from the draft City Plan. The direction has the force of law, and obliges the council to comply. It does flag however that this area of regulation is going to become bogged down in litigation as councils challenge the directive on the grounds that it exposes them in the future to damage claims.

Watch this space.