Mr Sartor confirmed that he was challenging a judgment in the Land and Environment Court which found he was under an obligation to consider climate change flood risks when he approved the $150 million Sandon Point development.
The plan called for hundreds of new houses on open land between Thirroul and Bulli in Wollongong.
Mr Sartor told the Herald that Justice Biscoe, erred in finding that the minister had a mandatory obligation to consider whether climate change would lead to an increased flood risk.
“The Sandon Point approval was overturned on a technicality,” he said. “If that interpretation of the law stands it would mean that future approvals would be less certain because you can’t foresee all the things that you might have to consider in the future.”
The case is going to the NSW Court of Appeal in July.
The sea level report, released this month as part of the state’s climate change plan, says rising waters and increased storms will affect “virtually all aspects of occupation on low-lying coastal areas”. Low-lying coastal areas could suffer from the “Venice effect”, in which more frequent high tides could inundate suburbs.
The first phase of aerial laser mapping covered 1400 square kilometres of the Hunter and Central Coast and found the homes, plus other buildings, 73 kilometres of roads and 164 square kilometres of residentially zoned land were less than one metre above current sea level.
It suggested mid-term responses such as building sea walls along urban beaches and longer-term strategies involving “managed retreat” from the water’s edge. Coastal development is expected to “exacerbate risks from sea-level rise and increases in the severity and frequency of storms and coastal flooding by as early as 2050”, the report said. It notes that climate change planning is essential to the NSW coastal development policy “to ensure future urban development is not located in areas of high risk from natural hazards including sea level rise, coastal recession, rising water tables and flooding”.
A NSW Opposition MP, Michael Richardson, accused Mr Sartor of avoiding his responsibilities as planning minister. “Frank Sartor says the impact of sea level rise on coastlines is an issue for Climate Change Minister Verity Firth,”he said. “If that’s the case, why did the planning department produce this document?”