Adaptive planning to the physical impacts of climate change in NSW local governments

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

White, NE 2010, 'Adaptive planning to the physical impacts of climate change in NSW local governments', paper presented to the Climate Change Adaptation Workshop/NCCARF Social, Economic and Institutional Dimensions Network, Sydney, NSW, Nov 16-19.


Planning adaptive responses to the physical impacts of climate change (PICC), including sea level rise, coastal erosion, increased incidences of drought, extreme weather events and more, is central to stemming the environmental impact and consequently the social and economic impact of climate change. Effective policy responses of governments to these impacts require effective adaptation plans. In Australia, all levels of government have a role through regulation and policy in adapting to climate change. However it is at the local government level where much of the responsibility is expected to fall. This paper presents the results of original research conducted in New South Wales, Australia, on the planning response of local governments for adapting to the PICC. The study investigates the perceptions of local government planners, collected through a voluntary, anonymous questionnaire, regarding the actions taken within their local government area to plan for the PICC, the effectiveness of that response, and what further actions they perceive should be undertaken in the future. The results show a high perceived vulnerability of local government areas to the PICC but a broad lack of confidence in planning measures. One quarter of respondents thought their council had taken no steps at all to plan for the PICC. Furthermore, 61.8 percent of councils are believed to have taken less than three steps to plan for the PICC. The overall efficacy of steps that had been taken received a low rating from the planners. The results indicate that more needs to be done to plan for the physical impacts of climate change, including conducting risk assessments, policy development and collaboration between councils. This applied evaluation research is conducted within a postpositivist paradigm and is analysed through the theoretical framework of adaptive management.