Event: Press Conference, National Industry Roundtable Land Use Planning and Resilience
Date: Thursday, 27 July 2023, 1.30pm AEST
Speakers: Andrew Hall CEO Insurance Council of Australia; Councillor Linda Scott President Australian Local Government Association; Matt Collins CEO Planning Institute Australia; Denita Wawn CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: housing, flood plains, planning ministers meeting, land use planning
Andrew Hall, CEO Insurance Council of Australia: So, we’re really pleased today to bring together the broad spectrum of the industry involved in developing housing in this country from builders through to the insurance sector. We’re also very pleased to have local government attend our roundtable today. Effectively, industry has come together and agreed on seven points for planning ministers. This is all designed around trying to get better collaboration, better data and the framework together on how we can make sure that moving forward development for our future housing needs is done in a safe and sustainable way, but we avoid the mistakes of the past and that we can make sure that homes are not put in harm’s way like on flood plains. From the insurance perspective out of last, we incurred nearly $7 billion worth of insured losses. That was the worst record of insured losses in Australian history. It means that everybody pays in terms of higher premiums. We need a better risk profile in this country. That’s why decisions made at the planning ministers forum today really matter and that’s why industry is coming together and working co-operatively with people like local government.
Councillor Linda Scott, President Australian Local Government Association: I’m Councillor Linda Scott the Australian Local Government Association president and on behalf of Australia’s 537 local governments welcome the opportunity to participate in today’s planning ministers’ forum. Local governments across Australia are united in our commitment to work with state and territory and the federal government and also peak bodies to ensure that we are able to deliver more homes, more safely for Australians. We know that in many areas of Australia state and territory planning regulations continue to require council to consider approvals for planning homes on flood plains or in disaster prone areas. Planning approvals in flood plain and other dangerous areas cannot continue. Local governments are very committed to working with governments and stakeholders to find a better way forward for more climate resilient land use planning and approvals.
Matt Collins, CEO Planning Institute Australia: Matt Collins, CEO of the Planning Institute of Australia. As the peak body for the town planning profession, we’ve been really pleased today to co-host this important roundtable. We think that today is a signal of a new partnership for change. We want to see more climate conscious planning systems. It is fundamentally important for the future of this country in an era of climate change that we put risk at the centre of land use planning to ensure that we are keeping people and property safe. What I really was pleased to see today was a really strong consensus around the importance of making changes to our current planning rules to ensure that we’re effectively planning for risk in an era of climate change. As Andrew said too, getting the data right is fundamentally important. Planning systems can only base decisions on the inputs that they have and that’s why we’re so pleased today to see, as well, a really strong recognition of the importance of investing in better mapping and flood modelling to ensure that we can make proper, informed, risk-based decisions that keep people and property safe.
Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia: Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia. Master Builders Australia was very excited to be here today because our focus is not just to be on the National Construction Code. It needs to be also on planning regulations. If we don’t get our planning right, we can’t build right. And it is critically important if we’re going to house double our population over the next 40 years that we get our systems, our regulation right based on a risk approach. It is vitally important that we focus not only on new builds and what we do for the future but what do we also do in respect to our legacy communities. Those at higher risk, how do we help them and how do we approach betterment to ensure that we de-risk their current situation. We’re very excited to be a part of this process to ensure that build better for all communities in our country.
Journalist: So, today’s decision was really focused on sort of flood plain management. When do we sort of see that discussion happening for other natural disasters and you know it’s quite a big challenge having to sort of retrofit the planning process to each natural disaster. So, how do you go about tackling all of that?
Andrew: Well from a peril point of view, flood is our most expensive peril. It is the one that we can most accurately predict. It should be the one that we are prioritising to solve first. When it comes to others like cyclone, bushfire, there are a lot of mitigations we know work including tree clearing or roof strengthening and the like. And I think, councils largely and state governments have been rolling out programs around that. After the 2019/2020 bushfires, homes have to be built back to a different standard up and down the north and south coast of NSW. But after the floods, people can build back the exact same home in the exact same location which is the definition of insanity. So, we are focused on flood primarily for a reason, but it does encompass all planning concerns around perils.
Linda: Local governments are focused on having a more climate resilient planning structure across Australia. Having a nationally consistent climate resilient focus for the design and improvement of our planning systems is a very welcome thing for Australian local governments.
Journalist: And what’s the hope once you deliver this document to the state and federal planning ministers? I mean, are you hoping they really take on board, have they given an indication that they are waiting for this document? What happens next?
Andrew: Well, I think the peak bodies, and Matt is closely involved with planning ministers, but from peak bodies, National Cabinet gave the states the task last December to come up with a plan to be able to eliminate building on flood plains. We’re hopeful that we’re giving them industry’s collective view on how to go about doing that collaboratively based on data, empowering local government, empowering decision makers with the right framework, and using people like insurers to understand where insurance will or won’t be available after they’ve made those decisions. So, we’re really trying to help planning ministers here move the needle and we understand it’s a really challenging, complex job trying to absorb large population growth in our country. Where do you put people that’s affordable? But what we’re trying to do is avoid repeating past mistakes.
Matt: I think the power of today’s forum too is that as planning ministers gather to think about how they are going to meet the National Cabinet plan, we are able to speak with a united and common voice representing all parts of the system to say these are the actions we think need to be taken to ensure we have a more risk-based approach to planning for land use in the future and that will help play such an important role in mitigating and adapting our communities to be more resilient in an era of climate change.
Denita: I think one of the key messages that came out today is a lack of knowledge and support for people on the ground. Whether they are people that own homes, whether they are people that run businesses, or in our case, they are people that are trying to assist in building back after a disaster. There is a lack of information, a lack of easy access to information to make those informed decisions around risk. Are we being as proactive as possible as industry and as governments to ensuring they are best informed to make those decisions at a time that is critical when they are going to be spending huge amounts of money. And that’s why we need to collaborate so the whole supply chain of providing a built environment is working collaboratively together to ensure that we are supporting our communities.
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