2013 WA Coastal Conference – Esperance

The rest of the Essential Environmental team is envious of our resident Senior Engineer, Kelly Norris, for getting the opportunity to head down to Esperance (known for some of Australia’s best beaches and whitest sands) and represent us at the 2013 WA Coastal Conference. The conference, held between 31st July and 2nd August, was themed ‘Balancing Communities and Coasts’ and encompassed by three streams: Planning and management for our coast; Adapting to the changing coast; and Communities and our coasts.

The Port of Esperance

The Port of Esperance

Keynote speakers included Dr Gina Newton, a past National President of the Australian Marine Sciences Association and pioneer of a national assessment of Australia’s coastal vulnerability to climate change; Tony Crook MP, Nationals WA Federal Member for O’Connor; and Stuart Nahajski, LandCorp’s General Manager, Regional South.

To be fair, Kelly has developed a significant understanding of coastal vulnerability and risk assessment through his experience in preparing Stormwater and Coastal Management Plans in areas of the Pilbara and Lancelin and so it was completely fitting that he attend!

Kelly gave a presentation entitled ‘Risk Assessment of Hazards to Coastal Development – Precautionary Policy vs Practical Probability’, in which he discussed coastal hazard risk assessment and planning for development proposals in the context of the then draft State Planning Policy (SPP) 2.6. Kelly shared findings from the preparation of coastal hazard assessments using a risk assessment framework in accordance with SPP 2.6 for the town of Point Samson, located in the Shire of Roebourne.

Storm surge flood  for a 1 in 100 year ARI event, 2110, at Popes Nose Bridge, Point Samson

Storm surge flood for a 1 in 100 year ARI event, 2110

Some key discussion points included:

  • The challenge of setting objectives and risk tolerance for the responsible entity and end users;
  • Synergies of coastal hazard assessment with terrestrial flood management and application of risk management principles to both;
  • The true risks of inundation arising from sea level rise over the planning timeframe which could be significantly less than might first appear;
  • Site specific outcomes and impacts for these sites; and
  • Potential implications of a true risk management approach for other sites.

Storm surge modelled for a boat harbour

Other points of interest from the conference included:

  • Funding is available through the Department of Transport’s Coastal Protection and Adaption Grants. The grants were previously aimed at improving infrastructure, however, there is a revised focus on helping local authorities plan for coastal adaption for public benefit;
  • Insurance companies are approaching local councils in the eastern states to prepare climate change adaption strategies;
  • Peron Naturaliste Partnership is an alliance of Bunbury, Busselton, Capel, Dardanup, Harvey, Mandurah, Murray, Rockingham and Waroona Local Governments, between Cape Peron and Cape Naturaliste in the southwest of Western Australia who recognise the  potential vulnerability of this coastline due to climate change impacts. The Partnership was formed to develop a strategic approach to manage and implement coastal adaptation across the region;
  • European Commission has recently adopted a new initiative on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management as part of its Integrated Coastal Zone Management Protocol.

Planning Minister John Day was also present at the conference to launch the revised State Coastal Planning Policy 2.6.  Speaking at the 2013 WA State Coastal Conference in Esperance, Mr Day spoke of the importance of balancing the impact of our growing population with the conservation of our coastal environment. State Planning Policy 2.6: State Coastal Planning Policy was revised after public submissions were called in 2012 and relevant feedback was incorporated into the review. It is the basis for coastal planning policy guidance across the State and is intended to ensure the long-term sustainability of WA’s coast.

The revised policy can be found at: http://www.planning.wa.gov.au/SPP

Presentation of a $400 littering fine to the Shire of Esperance (Source: http://www.abc.net.au/local/photos/2009/07/17/2628742.htm)

Presentation of a $400 littering fine to the Shire of Esperance (Source: http://www.abc.net.au/local/photos/2009/07/17/2628742.htm)

On a final side note, who knew that pieces of the space station Skylab crashed in Esperance after the craft broke up over the Indian Ocean in 1979? The Shire fined the United States $400 for littering!