Climate change threatens Wollongong homes, WIN Stadium

Beaches in Wollongong face climate change threats, Wollongong council says. Picture: Adam McLean
Beaches in Wollongong face climate change threats, Wollongong council says. Picture: Adam McLean

Dozens of homes and public assets, including a home ground of the St George Illawarra Dragons, are at risk from rising sea levels and inundation along the Illawarra coastline, according to a management plan drawn up by the Wollongong City Council.

The council's coastal zone management plan, part of which was gazetted by the Berejiklian government on Friday, identified Thirroul beach as being particularly exposed, with as many as 71 properties vulnerable.

City mayor Gordon Bradbery said the council had engaged extensive studies based on a projected sea-level rise of 0.4 metres by 2050 and 0.9 metres by 2100.

The region also faced more intense rainfall events producing flooding run-off from the Illawarra escarpment, a range that comes within about half a kilometre of the beach at its closest.

"We've got some challenges - we're already experiencing climate change," Cr Bradbery said.

The council had already begun placing notifications on the most vulnerable properties, "making the risks known to anybody buying into the area", he said, adding the process "had brought a lot of grief".

"We were one of the first councils to get this work done," Cr Bradbery said.

The gazetting of the plan comes as the government is understood to be nearing the long-awaited promulgation of the state's new coastal management plan.

Introduced by the then planning minister Rob Stokes in mid-2016, coastal communities have been waiting for the new act to come into force. Changes will include the introduction of a more powerful Coastal Council with engineering expertise to scrutinise programs to improve the management of coastal risks.

Jeremy Buckingham, the Greens climate spokesman, said Wollongong's report "should be a wake-up call" for NSW.

“The Berejiklian government has pigeon-holed climate change as an environmental issue, but this report demonstrates its far reaching impacts for our economy, planning system and way of life,” he said.

The gazetted report examined the economic options for Thirroul, for instance, and concluded that a “[p]lanned retreat would result in the greatest net benefit per dollar (capital and maintenance costs) invested".

At high or extreme risk in the region included the NRL venue of WIN Stadium, 19 other recreational facilities, and important coastal vegetation.

Other public assets at risk included 12 roads and three carparks, 13 surf clubs and public buildings and 29 stormwater outlets and pipes, the report noted.

Cr Bradbery said the challenges were also compounded by an increase in the area's population as people exit Sydney.

The West Dapto land release, for instance, will house more than 50,000 people in a flood plain crisscrossed with creeks. Only 40 per cent of the available land was deemed safe for residents, he said.

The council would aim to acquire the most vulnerable residences as they came on to the market, level them and turn them into public land, Cr Bradbery said.

The Coastal Manual and State Environmental Planning Policy have been subject to detailed consultation and the new act will commence shortly, a Office of Environment & Heritage spokeswoman said.