Housing industry implores: stop dangerous homes

AN impassioned plea from builders, insurers and planners to stop homes being built on floodplains has landed with state government.

An urgent statewide overhaul of planning laws is needed, representative bodies of each group say, and state government must not allow buildings that put people’s lives at risk.

The Insurance Council of Australia, Master Builders Australia and the Planning Institute of Australia with the Australian Local Government Association this month convened the inaugural ‘National Industry Roundtable: Land Use Planning and Resilience’.

About 60 experts from government, financial services, property, and community organisations called for state and territory governments to urgently rethink planning rules so no more homes are built in high-risk, flood-prone locations.

A communique from the three sponsoring organisations outlining recommendations for reform has been released and will be sent to planning ministers, who also met last week to discuss this issue.

The roundtable heard all Australians were bearing the costs of worsening extreme weather events, and these costs were increasing because of historic planning decisions.

Attendees said without reform, population pressures and inadequate planning laws would mean further development of flood-prone land, putting lives at risk, costing taxpayers billions of dollars in recovery and remediation, and adding to an already strained insurance sector.

Insurance Council of Australia chief executive Andrew Hall said the flood events of 2022, with almost 300,000 disaster-related claims, had cost about $7 billion, driven up premiums and resulted in affordability constraints for those at highest risk.

“Without insurance, homeowners likely can’t access a mortgage, and that is the wrong direction for our country,” he said.

Better government planning and investment must be taken seriously, he said.

Master Builders Australia chief executive Denita Wawn said technical building regulations would always fail without fit-for-purpose planning laws.

She said government must take an appropriate risk-management approach.

“Governments are encouraged to take a balanced approach to development and resist a default of building out.”

She said there should be “alternative considerations, such as building up, to take the pressure off the housing system and [create] infrastructure that is more resilient and adaptable to extreme weather events”.

Planning Institute of Australia chief executive Matt Collins said Australia needed to act now to limit the impact of extreme weather on communities.

“By adopting new risk-based policies and investing in better mapping and data, we can ensure development avoids or minimises exposure to flood hazards.”

He said town planners supported governments taking clear action to ensure more climate-conscious planning, and last week’s roundtable was an important step towards this goal.

Australia Local Government Association president Linda Scott said “building back better” was supported by councils nationwide.

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