Australian Coastal Councils Association Inc.

The report of the Federal Parliamentary coastal inquiry released last night represents a landmark step towards the sustainability of the Australian coast and its communities, according to the National Sea Change Taskforce.

The inquiry was conducted over a period of 18 months by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts, chaired by Jennie George MP.

Barry Sammels, the Chair of the National Sea Change Taskforce and Mayor of the City of Rockingham in Western Australia, said the 47 recommendations in the George report set out practical ways in which the nation’s coastal challenges could be addressed.

The report also stressed ‘the time to act is now’. Key recommendations include:

• Establishment of a new Coastal Zone Ministerial Council to develop an Intergovernmental Agreement on the Coastal Zone endorsed by COAG;
• A separate funding program for infrastructure enhancement in coastal areas vulnerable to climate change;
• 2012 be declared as the national Year of the Coast to build community awareness of climate change and other coastal issues;
• An Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into the liability issues facing public authorities and property owners in respect of climate change;
• A Productivity Commission inquiry into insurance cover for coastal properties;

The Inquiry report urged the need for national leadership in better managing the Australian coast, especially in the context of climate change. “Sea change councils endorse this view and strongly support the report’s recommendations,” said Barry Sammels.

“We call on the Rudd Government to act decisively and to provide the leadership necessary to more effectively manage the coast by adopting the report recommendations. This is an historic opportunity for the Government to ensure the sustainability of the nation’s coastal zone which is without doubt our most highly valued natural asset.”

The Inquiry was conducted by a bi-partisan committee which included representatives of all three major parties. “The committee is to be applauded for considering the major issues facing the coast and coming up with practical recommendations on how they can be addressed,” said Barry Sammels.

“Apart from challenges such as climate change and population growth the report also tackles key emerging issues, such as the legal dilemma facing coastal councils trying to prepare for the impact of rising sea levels and the vexed question of insurance cover in vulnerable coastal areas.

“On behalf of the nation’s sea change communities I congratulate Jennie George and her fellow committee members on the enormous effort they have made to find solutions to these complex challenges. We look forward to the Rudd Government’s response.”

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