Planners, builders, and insurers unite in urgent call for planning reform

In response to the escalating flood emergencies and the increasing impact of extreme weather events in recent years, key organisations representing planners, builders, and insurers have come together to demand immediate reform in land use planning.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA), Master Builders Australia (MBA), and the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA), with support from the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), convened the National Industry Roundtable: Land Use Planning and Resilience.

The inaugural roundtable, which saw participation from around 60 experts representing government, financial services, property, and community sectors, highlighted the urgent need for state and territory governments to rethink their planning rules and practices. The primary objective is to prevent further construction of homes and buildings in high-risk flood-prone areas without considering the potential risks.

The consequences of historical planning decisions have been severe, with all Australians bearing the increasing costs of extreme weather events. The roundtable emphasised that without immediate reform, continued development in flood-prone regions will jeopardise lives, lead to billions of dollars in recovery and remediation expenses, and further strain the insurance sector.

Andrew Hall, CEO of the Insurance Council of Australia, expressed concerns over the impact of recent flood events, which resulted in nearly 300,000 disaster-related claims totalling around $7 billion. These events have driven up insurance premiums, making homeownership less affordable for those living in high-risk areas. Hall emphasised that access to mortgages becomes challenging without insurance, leading the country in the wrong direction.

Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia, stressed the importance of planning laws that are prepared for the future and adopting a risk-management approach. She encouraged governments to consider alternative strategies, such as building upwards to alleviate housing pressures while investing in resilient infrastructure to withstand extreme weather events.

Matt Collins, CEO of the Planning Institute of Australia, highlighted the critical role of planning in influencing future disaster risk and urged the adoption of new risk-based policies. He emphasised the need to invest in improved mapping and data to ensure that development avoids or minimises exposure to flood hazards.

Councillor Linda Scott, President of the Australian Local Government Association, emphasised the vital role that 537 local councils play in building resilient communities. She stressed the importance of rebuilding damaged local infrastructure to more resilient standards and advocated for “building back better” as a core value in disaster recovery efforts.

The recommendations for planning reform, outlined in a communique from the sponsoring organisations, will be sent to planning ministers who met to discuss this pressing issue. The roundtable’s outcomes aim to foster climate-conscious planning systems, limit the impact of extreme weather events, and create more resilient communities across Australia.