Nedlands mayor says potential rise in water levels needs planning now

Nedlands Mayor Max Hipkins.
Nedlands Mayor Max Hipkins.

SWAN RIVER homes’ living areas need to be built high enough in the future to avoid rising water levels as an effect of climate change according to an idea floated by Nedlands Mayor Max Hipkins.

“What we need to consider is a minimum height level for living areas, while allowing undercrofts, carparking and storage underneath,” Mr Hipkins told Western Suburbs Weekly.

Federal Government OzCoasts models of the river’s highest tides in combination with possible 0.5m. 0.8m or 1.1m sea level rises by 2100 indicate most low-lying foreshores being affected by 2100.

However, last month Climate Risk Australia mapping indicated high tides, storm surges and rises combined could reach up to 2.7m, including in Perth, because the Greenland and Antarctic ice shelves are melting quicker than previously thought.

Mr Hipkins said while any rise could be lower, councils had to be prepared for any changes because homes lasted more than 50 years.

“Anyone can now put in a basement along here, which would be an unwise decision at this time,” he said

Riverwall-protected parklands in front of Nedlands’ homes was marsh before colonisation, which absorbed high tides and floods.

Riverwalls that now create parks and infrastructure could be the first structures undermined by the effect of global warming.

Mr Hipkins proposes a minimum height for living areas in riverside homes up to one block back from the first street, and he refuted arguments the risk was too far in the future.

“If you start early with these things you avoid future costs, and people are already putting car garages underneath their homes,” he said.

The new rule is not in the council’s latest town planning scheme, currently with the WA Planning Commission for comment, but Mr Hipkins said he could proposed its retrospective introduction later this year.

The Commission’s policies direct coastal and riverside planning and development to reduce flood risk, but its spokesman said setting floor levels for river flooding was a council responsibility guided by the Swan River Trust and the Department of Water.

“Nedlands is able to propose a provision for this purpose for WAPC consideration when the draft scheme is submitted for approval following public advertising,” the spokesman said.

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