There was no evidence of climate change sceptics among Bega Valley Shire councillors when they gave the nod to the council’s Climate Change Strategy at their June 25 meeting.“This is an important step,” Mayor Bill Taylor said, “we accept the science of climate change. The strategy is about us taking a precautionary position with a view to council and ratepayers’ assets.”
The South East NSW region has warmed by 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1950 according to the strategy document, and is likely to warm by 1 degree Celsius by 2030. This warming would be accompanied by a projected decrease in rainfall by 5 per cent. This would make parts of the region’s climate similar to the current climate of Parramatta in western Sydney (CSIRO, 2007).
Temperature extremes are predicted to increase with fewer frosts and substantially more days over 35 degrees.
The strategy highlights the shire’s vulnerability to climate change which covers 225km of coastline (the longest in NSW). The shire includes 101 ocean beaches; 29 estuaries; 400km of estuarine foreshore; 121 SEPP wetlands with a combined area of 2753 hectares; 65 per cent of the shire is national park, State forest or Crown reserves and 30 per cent of the shire is rural residential and agriculture.
Greater climate change variability is likely to have serious impacts on the shire’s economy due to the reliance of tourism and the primary industry sector.
“This in turn affects the shire’s ability to invest in retail, construction and building industries. As such the impact on employment opportunities may be significant.”
The higher temperatures could increase health risks particularly for the elderly and as the shire has a higher mean population age than the NSW mean, it is likely health problems could become more acute, says the strategy document.
Council has undertaken to play a continued role in preparing the community for climate change and helping make adjustments necessary to minimise risk, improve economic sustainability and make the community more resilient.
Community engagement is a key method to achieve this and council will look to integrated climate change issues in appropriate community activities.