A report into the legal implications of changes in coastal policies in several States has found that coastal councils are at increased risk of litigation in relation to planning for climate change. The report was prepared for the National Sea Change Taskforce by Beatty Legal, a firm specialising in environment and planning law.

Andrew Beatty, the principal of the firm, said coastal councils need to adapt how they act to confront the new policy and legal environment irrespective of the personal views of elected representatives or council staff. He said from the perspective of legal risk it makes no difference what personal views councillors or officers may have about the existence, nature or causes of climate change.

“What matters most is how Courts and planning Tribunals are now determining disputes which involve climate related issues,” he said. “Councils need to make sound and legally defensible decisions to improve their chances of deterring litigation and to ensure they are in the best position to defend themselves if and when they become a party to legal proceedings.”

The final report consists of two parts: Part A which identifies areas of legal risk for coastal councils confronted by the actual and projected impacts of climate change; and Part B which is a legal checklist prepared specifically for the seven councils councils that participated in the study as case study areas.

View or download the report here Climate Change Legal Risks Report Part A