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Wednesday
Mar112015

Coastal Property Peril Over The Ditch!

This article in today's Australian New Daily is relevant to out local situation - the attraction of the affordable ocean facing cottage that looks and feels cosy is a perennial attraction to our retiree population, and those escaping Auckland suburbia with a wad of untaxed capital gains.

"The most sought-after properties in the country are invariably located “on the water” and those with picturesque views of the sea can fetch ridiculous premiums at auctions. However, if climate scientists are right, home owners living within earshot of the ocean are also taking on one of the big perils of global warming.

A recent report published by the Climate Council contains disturbing forecasts on the likely effects of climate change on flood activity along the Australian coastline.With average sea levels expected to rise by up to a metre in the next 85 years, the Climate Council is predicting that coastal regions will become increasingly prone to inundation. The likely risks are great enough that thousands of people may be forced to evacuate properties as some coastal areas become uninhabitable towards the end of the century.

One of the report’s authors, Professor Will Steffen of the Australian National University, believes that increased coastal flooding is one of the “certainties” of climate change.

“Sea level rises are one of the most certain events of climate change,” he said. "We know it has been going up in the last century. If your coastal property is already prone to flooding then you’re looking at some hefty increases in those risks in the future.”

Professor Steffen estimates that infrastructure and dwellings valued at $226 billion are at risk of coastal inundation if sea levels rise by 1.1 metres. These assets are located within 200 metres of coastal areas that are known to have experienced floods. According to the report, up to 250,000 homes on the Australian coastline are at risk of inundation if average sea levels rise by more than a metre.

The combined value of these houses at 2008 replacement values is $72 billion. The impact of rising sea levels is likely to be even greater on social infrastructure and commercial assets.

Here’s a list of national infrastructure assets at risk:
• 120 Port facilities
• 5 Power stations
• 258 Police, fire and ambulance stations
• 75 Hospitals
• 44 Water and waste facilities

Every state and territory is exposed to the effects of rising sea levels, but some states and regions are more likely to be affected. Coastal towns and cities near estuaries and which have a history of flooding are most at risk. According to the report, the two states most exposed to higher sea levels are Queensland and South Australia.

The report estimates that the replacement cost for coastal property assets at risk in Queensland exceeds $50 billion while in South Australia the cost could range as high as $45 billion. NSW has around $40 billion of infrastructure at risk, including 68,000 homes if sea levels rise by more than a metre.

Under the same scenario, around 48,000 coastal homes in Victoria would be imperilled and 15,000 in Tasmania. Coastal towns and cities near estuaries and which have a history of flooding are most at risk.

The report estimates that the replacement cost for coastal property assets at risk in Queensland exceeds $50 billion while in South Australia the cost could range as high as $45 billion.NSW has around $40 billion of infrastructure at risk, including 68,000 homes if sea levels rise by more than a metre. Under the same scenario, around 48,000 coastal homes in Victoria would be imperilled and 15,000 in Tasmania."

It is imperative that steps are taken to deal with the problem openly and honestly, but that is not the case here where planners are constantly under pressure from property owners to tone down plans and reports to avoid adverse effects on property prices.

Attempts to share the burden must be resisted at all costs. People who have purchased coastal property simply have to accept that they bought into the risk, and there is no justification for others to have to share that risk. Insurance underwriters are already taking steps to protect their interests, much to the horror of those deemed to be within the threatened coastal zone.  

Rate-payers in the District in particular need to be very aware of this dilemma facing their Council, and the tendency towards providing protection one way or another - both physical and financial,  for these property owners through the wider rating base.

 

 

 

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