COASTAL towns such as Byron Bay could be filled with buildings on stilts as they adjust to a future with higher sea levels, Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham has said.
Speaking after a presentation by sea level expert Dr John Church, Cr Barham said rising sea levels – predicted to come close to a metre by the end of the century – would not spell the doom of coastal towns, but they did mean councils would have to change the way they looked at building approvals and infrastructure in the future.
“I’ve been in trouble for saying this before, but it’s true. Byron is built partly on a swamp,” Cr Barham said.
“There are areas that have been filled and if you applied today’s thinking to it you would build it (the town) here.”
That meant as sea levels rose and climate change delivered more extreme storm events, towns such as Byron would be hit hard.
However, those changes still had a long way to go before we saw the full effect of them, Cr Barham said.
“It’s gradual and the time scale means that we have time to adapt,” she said.
That meant considering which areas were most exposed to rising sea levels and other aspects of climate change, working out when they would most be exposed and factoring that into the expected life of any infrastructure, such as roads for example, put there.
For houses, which were expected to last many decades, or even centuries, other strategies were needed.
Planned retreat was one, and Cr Barham said she was pleased to see Dr Church raising it as a serious option for councils dealing with rising seas and coastal erosion.
“More and more, planned retreat is being recommended as an option,” Cr Barham said.