Final report released: Past, present and future landscapes: Understanding alternative futures for climate change adaptation of coastal settlements and communities

This final report details research funded by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility that examines the past and present drivers of landscape change in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, and models scenarios for the future, based on potential land use planning decisions. The project demonstrates a novel approach to modelling alternative futures by linking the possible futures to various strategic land use planning options. Then the consequent vulnerabilities to climate change impacts may be assessed. This past-present-future landscape approach allows a more integrated analysis of parameters that might change.

Maps which visualise how the future might look are produced for six land use planning options: a ‘deregulated’ scenario which has only minimal constraints on land use; a scenario that models land use constraints embodied in the Far North Coast Regional Plan; a scenario which increases the population density of urban settlement; an ‘energy development’ scenario which combines the Regional Plan constraints with those which would arise if coal seam gas was intensively exploited in the region; and two ‘climate adapted’ scenarios which place constraints on land use availability to protect areas vulnerable to either ‘High’ climate change impacts or ‘Low’ climate impacts.

The central conclusion from the scenario analysis is that the Far North Coast Regional Plan is well equipped to handle the climate change impacts assessed in the study. It is important, therefore, that local governments are well supported and do not give in to pressures to weaken controls in the Plan. Moreover, the Plan must ‘hold its ground’ well beyond 2030.

If the controls on the Regional Plan are weakened, then a future closer to the ‘deregulated’ future scenario – the one that has the most severe vulnerabilities to the climate impacts modelled – is likely. Not surprisingly, the future with the greatest protection from impact is the ‘high climate adapted futures’. Scenarios with impacts in between these two extremes actually had relatively minimal impacts, even though they modelled varying land use planning options. Each scenario did however have a baseline that kept the protections embodied in the Regional Plan.

View the final report

This photo is copyright © Philip Morley