Environmental Planning and Geomorphological Processes in Australian Rivers (10823)
Statutory planning plays an integral role in some aspects of river and floodplain management, such as restrictions on the use and development of land subject to inundation.
Geomorphological processes including erosion and sedimentation are a key hazard that needs to be addressed in river management and have been a key driver of expenditure on river management works. However, unlike flooding, fluvial geomorphological processes have received little attention in Australian planning law. Engineering measures continue to be widely used to address conflicts between fluvial geomorphological processes and land use. Non-structural measures that rely on legal or planning tools have been less often used, even though they be more sustainable and cost-effective.
Scientific understanding of the geomorphology of Australian rivers has increased greatly over recent decades. Geomorphological analysis supported by hydraulic modelling now allows areas of land at risk of fluvial erosion and sedimentation to be predicted with sufficient confidence to enable proactive management.
This paper reviews Australian planning laws in relation to geomorphological processes. It identifies key impediments that have limited the role of planning in law in the management of fluvial geomorphological processes. The paper also discusses recent developments in planning law in regard to coastal erosion, which have wider implications for the establishment of principles managing geomorphological hazards, including in the fluvial zone.
The paper argues that a holistic management framework that makes greater use of planning tools as well as more traditional engineering measures would lead to better management of geomorphological processes in Australian rivers. There is a fundamental need for consistent and widely-accepted principles that define the circumstances in which to protect assets, accommodate fluvial processes, or retreat from at risk riverside and floodplain zones.