Ballina on the move for all the wrong reasons

ALSTONVILLE could become the ‘new Ballina’ if scientists’ worst climate change predictions come true.

East Ballina Heights would become ‘East Ballina island’ and serious questions would be raised about the future viability of Ballina as a place to live.

The warnings were made by Professor Rodger Tomlinson, director of the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management, at the NSW Coastal Conference in Ballina yesterday.

He said sea level rises, combined with storm surges, could have devastating consequences for the region.

“Most of the worst things you can expect from climate change could happen tomorrow if there is a big storm event,” he said.

“And local governments are on the front line. They are bearing most of the grief on these issues.

“But the time to act is now. We could have a retreat policy, but where do we retreat to? Maybe we should have a 20-year moratorium on new development within the setback lines.

“The changes we are talking about are happening now. We have to take action to prevent more problems in the future.”

Professor Bruce Thom, from the Australian Coastal Society, agreed that ‘staying afloat’ was a major issue for the Ballina community.

“It’s not intended to frighten people, but it is intended to inform people,” he said. “The sense of urgency is there.”

Prof Thom said he toured the town this week and saw the effects a 1.9 metre tide had on certain areas, particularly West Ballina.

“You can’t help but to see this is a community which will have to confront some very, very big problems,” he said.

“You can just see what this town is going to be faced with.

“You can see drains where the drainage work is already rusting from the salt water.

“Ballina is a place at enormous risk. We have to have a need for action.”

Prof Thom said Ballina Council needed to be very careful with its future planning processes.

“I am not sure if the council is doing enough in relation to climate change – I haven’t looked at that closely enough,” he said.

“Obviously we can’t change the decisions that have already been made.

“But what is important is what the council does in the future.”

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