What is the draft Climate Change Policy?

A policy provides a set of guiding principles to help with decision making. 

The draft Climate Change Policy sets out Council’s position relating to climate change and is intended to guide the planning and development of the Central Coast region’s resilience to climate change. 

Why do we need a Climate Change Policy?

The former Gosford City Council had a Climate Change Policy whereas former Wyong Shire Council did not. Following the Council amalgamation in May 2016, the harmonisation of all the policies has been a key priority for Central Coast Council.

Council is responsible for guiding planning and development decisions across the region that minimise the impacts of climate change in the future.  The draft Climate Change Policy commits to reviewing and updating planning levels to ensure potential risks are identified or minimised wherever possible. The draft Policy provides strategic direction for the management of Council assets, including roads and drainage, water and sewer and community facilities. It informs residential development and aligns Council’s operational and strategic planning with the NSW State Policy setting and actions.

Do Councils have to have a Climate Change Policy?

No, Councils are not legislated to develop a Climate Change Policy. Councils are, however, required to plan for the risks associated with climate change as directed in the following:

How did the draft Policy come about?

At its meeting on 12 March 2018, Council committed to take strong action on climate change, including mitigation and adaptation measures, and to develop a Central Coast Climate Change Policy that includes, but is not limited to, initiatives such as:

  • Targets consistent with the Paris Agreement and an action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Council's operations and activities

  • Initiatives to promote actions on climate change within the Central Coast community, development, business and industry sectors, including the uptake of renewable energy

  • An overview of issues related to climate change including emergency management (including bushfires and extreme weather events), sea level rise, risks to and management of infrastructure and impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems.

What consultation was undertaken in the development of the draft Policy?

At the 12 March 2018, the Mayoral Minute was moved that Council develop a Central Coast Climate Change Policy. At its meeting held 13 August 2018, a draft Climate Change Policy was reported to Council. Council resolved to endorse the draft Policy for the purpose of public exhibition. 

Consultation will be undertaken in three phases:

  • Phase 1:  Initial survey, public exhibition and community workshops

  • Phase 2:  In-depth consultation and education on climate change themes and action plan 
      development (2019)

  • Phase 3:  Implementation and integration into ‘Business as Usual’ (January 2020 and beyond)

What are the strategic principles of the draft Climate Change Policy?

The development of the draft Climate Change Policy was guided by six overarching principles:

  • Ecological sustainable development (ensuring that development decisions do not compromise the environmental value, community livelihood and economic opportunities)

  • Holistic approach (to include all the different components and understanding the relationships or impacts collectively)

  • Scientific or evidence based (decision making that is informed by the right information)

  • Collective decision making (involving all the right stakeholders in decision making)

  • Proactive and continuity (acting in advance to mitigate or adapt to the risks rather than reacting when the risk unfolds)

  • Place-based approach (understanding the local context and working with the local people to make the right decisions that are more suited to them.

What does ‘precautionary principle’ mean?

Precautionary principle means that if there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of scientific certainty should not postpone measures to prevent environmental degradation. Therefore, decision making processes should effectively integrate both long term and short term economic, environmental, social and equitable considerations where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage. When using the precautionary principle, public and private decisions should be guided by:

(i) careful evaluation to avoid, wherever practicable, serious or irreversible damage to the environment, and

(ii) an assessment of the risk-weighted consequences of various options.

What does ‘intergenerational equity’ mean?

Intergenerational equity means that the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment are maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations.

What is ‘planned retreat’, ‘managed retreat’ or ‘managed realignment’?

The term ‘planned retreat’, now replaced by ‘managed retreat’ or ‘managed realignment’ in the NSW Coastal Management Glossary  https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/-/media/OEH/Corporate-Site/Documents/Water/Coasts/coastal-management-glossary-180195.pdf] and the Coastal Management Manual (Part B, s3.5.4 Planning for Change), refers to limits to development in coastal areas deemed to be vulnerable to hazards.

‘Managed retreat’or ‘managed realignment’ refers to limits to development in coastal allows the shoreline to migrate inland unimpeded. It allows an area that was not previously exposed to coastal processes and hazards to become exposed, for instance by removing or breaching coastal protection works. Managed retreat may involve the relocation inland, out of a coastal risk area, of homes and infrastructure under threat from coastal erosion, recession or inundation. It may also involve the deliberate setting back (moving landward) of the existing line of sea defence to obtain engineering or environmental advantages. During a managed retreat process, a new foreshore area or new intertidal habitat may be created”. (OEH Coastal Management Glossary, 2018, P.10)


What is the Paris Agreement?

At the Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris on the 12 December 2015, 195 countries reached a landmark agreement to combat climate change by accelerating and intensifying the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. For more information on the Paris Agreement, click here.

The key objective of the Paris Agreement is to build upon the Convention and bring all nations into a common cause to limit the increase in global temperatures. The commitment aims to achieve net-zero emissions globally by the second half of the century.

Find out what the Australian Government has committed to as part of the Paris Agreement.


What influence does State Government policy have?

The NSW Climate Change Policy Framework outlines the NSW Government’s objectives to achieve the long- term objective to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and make NSW more resilient to a changing climate.

The NSW Climate Change Policy Framework outlines the role of the NSW Government and sets policy directions. The NSW Government endorses the Paris Agreement and commits to take action that is consistent with the level of effort to achieve Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.

Why is Local Government involved in addressing climate change impacts, including and emissions reductions? Shouldn’t it be Federal Government?

In 2016, the Central Coast Regional Plan 2036 set a goal to protect the natural environment.  Direction 14 of the Regional Plan requires the management of climate change related risks and the improvement of the region’s resilience to hazards such as flooding, coastal erosion, bushfire, mine subsidence and land contamination.

Additionally, the Community Strategic Plan outlines the community’s objectives and expectations when delivering Council’s goods and services to the community.  The Community Strategic Plan requires Council to address climate change and its impacts through collaborative strategic planning, responsible land management and consider targets and actions.

What is the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) and what does it mean?

Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) are the concentration of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the global atmosphere. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted four emissions scenarios. These are RCP8.5, RCP6.0, RCP4.5 and RCP2.6.  Useful explanations on the RCPs have been provided on the Coast Adapt website.

Higher concentration levels of GHGs (RCP8.5) mean higher climate change risks and mitigation costs in the future. In other words, planning for higher risks now lowers the potential impacts and mitigation costs in the future. In comparison, RCP2.6 represents a lower GHG concentration level scenario which means minimal effort now however the probability of failure and risk is much larger in the future.

Councils have a responsibility to plan for local services that are meant to last for 100 years. If Councils planned for roads and water and sewer infrastructure using a low concentration scenario (RCP2.6), then there is a higher risk that these assets will fail in the near future. But if Council planned using a high concentration scenario then we can work to minimise risks and reduce the consequences of failure in the future.

Does the draft Policy set planning levels for sea level rise or commit Council to planned retreat for sea level rise?

No, the draft Policy does not set planning levels for sea level rise.  The draft Policy provides a set of guiding principles and establishes a framework to help with decision making.

The draft Policy commits Council to review and update the sea level rise planning levels and coastal hazards to provide a consistent approach that is applied across the Central Coast region. This future work will include the development of plans and strategies that recognise the long term need to protect coastal communities, urban development and Council infrastructure.

Future plans and strategies for sea level rise planning levels will be prepared in line with the strategic principles of the draft Policy and will focus on place-based collaboration with the community to maximise shared learnings and responsibility as well as enhance the regions capacity for climate resilience. 

Is Council Considering ‘planned retreat’, ‘managed retreat’, and ‘managed realignment’?

Council’s draft climate change policy does not include planned retreat as the preferred way forward. Planned retreat is only one of a number of options that should be considered as required after adequate consultation during any planning process in the future.

Likewise ‘managed realignment’is identified as an option in the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Coastal Management Manual Part B, Stage 3, section 3.5.4 Planning for Change. https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/-/media/OEH/Corporate-Site/Documents/Water/Coasts/coastal-management-manual-part-b-stage-3-170674.pdf?la=en&hash=028B6547B167E9C7E033FBC5F2AAD87DDDD8D901]

While included as an option in the NSW OEH guidance, Council has no current plans for ‘managed retreat’. In the event that Council needs to consider managed retreat, this investigation will be made through a collaborative process with the community. It is Councils position that ‘managed retreat’ is a last resort, and will only be considered after all other options have proven ineffective, or are not technically, economically or socially acceptable.


Where can I get information on projected sea level rise and other climate change impacts for my suburb?

The NSW Government has prepared a report that provides a snapshot of climate change projections for the Central Coast region.  It outlines some key characteristics of the region, including current climate, and details the projected changes to the region’s climate in the near and far future. 

What strategies are required to implement the draft Policy?

The draft Policy commits Council to establish a framework to lead a whole of Council approach when dealing with climate change.  This will be achieved through the development of the following strategic documents:

  • Climate Change Action Plan: A place-based approach to develop corporate and community targets for emissions reduction, promote mitigation initiatives such as uptake of renewable energy and continue on the adaptation pathway to build regional climate resilience.
  • Urban Sustainability Strategy: A roadmap to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across Council operations (i.e. waste, energy, plant/fleet and built form).
  • Energy and Emission Reduction Policy: A document to manage energy needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions across Council operations.
  • Sea Level Rise Policy: Consistent sea level and flood planning levels for the Central Coast.
  • Disaster Resilience Strategy: A roadmap to enhance Council and community resilience to natural disasters.
  • Urban Forestry Strategy: A framework to improve canopy cover in urban spaces to promote cooling effect and ensure carbon emissions are offset through formalised tree planting.
  • Biodiversity Strategy: A regional direction for conservation, environmental stewardship and ecologically sustainable development.

How long before the actions are developed and will the community be able to have a say?

The public exhibition phase of the draft Climate Change Policy is the first opportunity for the community to have their say on the Policy and how Council will manage climate change risks.  Following adoption of the Policy, Council will further engage with the community to develop the Climate Change Action Plan which will set direction for the climate actions for the region. This includes adaptation planning at the local level where communities will have the opportunity to decide what are the most feasible options to deal with the changing risks to their home or livelihood.

What does this policy mean for my property/insurance premiums?

Insurance premiums are set on an annual basis and are subject to the risks to the property, what the assets are made from and how much it will cost to replace the assets. For example, if your property is going to be flooded in a 100 year’s timeframe, that does not affect the insurance premium today. Insurance companies do not accommodate sea level rise in their premium, rather riverine flooding. 

For accurate information please seek guidance from your insurance provider. For specific information on how insurance companies are managing the potential impact on climate change visit: http://www.floods.org.au/site/flood-insurance-fact-sheets

Will Council compensate me if my property is flood affected?

No. Council will only advise you if your property is at risk of flooding and upon your request will provide options to mitigate or reduce the risk.

Will Council undertake a flood strategy for low lying areas?

Yes.  Council is already required to develop flood risk management plans to identity and mitigate risks.

What are the next steps?

Following the public exhibition period, Council will consider a further report on the outcomes of the community consultation.  The report will include a revised draft Policy that considers any submission received. 

Once a Climate Change Policy is adopted, Council will work towards delivering each of the commitment statements including the establishment of the Climate Change Action Plan in partnership with the community.