PhD student Anne Leitch spoke about local government responses to climate change and of the need for local community involvement at yesterday’s Coastal Conference.
PhD student Anne Leitch spoke about local government responses to climate change and of the need for local community involvement at yesterday’s Coastal Conference. JAY CRONAN

Climate change down to the letter

ANY response to climate change and coastal retreat policy must involve the community, a PhD student told delegates at the NSW Coastal Conference yesterday.

Anne Leitch, who is writing her study on local governments’ responses to climate change, lives in Byron Bay.

She has spent the past four months studying letters to the editor in local newspapers.

“There have been more than 50 letters in that time,” she said.

“I am looking at them because they provide an insight into community values.

“The Byron Shire is a colourful place and I am finding people are very keen to talk about what they perceive are the facts.

“The main discussion has been about the cause of coastal erosion.

“There is also a political risk, which is quite interesting.

“Access to the coast is a key part of the Australian identity, but there is also a localness in the debate.

“What I mean by that is that someone from, say, Mullumbimby will write about the problems in Byron, but a Byron person will say that person shouldn’t speak on the issue. But this is affecting everyone.”

Ms Leitch agreed the issue of coastal retreat at places like Belongil was a ‘raw’ topic.

However, she said it was a great time for discussion.

“There has been more guidance from the State Government, but councils are still in a difficult position,” she said.

“They get their powers from the state, but are elected by the community.

“They need expert advice as well as local knowledge.

“But I really do think that the solution is in the hands of the community. We all have to be prepared to live with what we decide.”

The NSW Coastal Conference finishes tomorrow.



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