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    What is Adaptation Planning and why is Council doing it?

    Adaptation planning identifies actions that Council, in conjunction with our community, can take to respond to a change in climate and prepare for projected increases in lake levels and lake flooding over a long period of time.

    These actions are designed to reduce these impacts and ensure our City is resilient and continues to prosper. Adaptation planning is about understanding what options are available and deciding which ones are best at a local level for our City.

    Adaptation plans will guide future decisions, such as how we design and maintain roads and drainage systems, how to make buildings safe and durable, and how we manage erosion and maintain a healthy lake.

    Adaptation Planning

    • Acknowledges that risks are location specific and are best addressed at the local level.
    • Recognises that being prepared requires input from landowners, business owners, residents, special interest groups and organisations, Council, and state government agencies.
    • Is timed so the actions are implemented to accommodate increases in risk, as they are required.
    • Identifies the criteria for a successful outcome (economic, social, environmental)
    • Provides a level of certainty for decision-making by the public, Council and others, yet is flexible  enough to change with changing information

    How can I participate in the online consultations?

    If you have not previously participated simply click on the "Register" button at the top right hand of the page, when prompted create a SCREENNAME (Note: your comments will appear under your screenname and you can comment anonymously through a screenname of your choice) create a PASSWORD of your choice provide a valid email address, your age, gender and the location in which you live.

    If you have previously partcipated simply click on the "Sign In" function located on the right hand side of the top tool bar.

    To participate in other parts of the project, such as attending an information session or workshop please see the 'key events' page of the website

    Section 149 Certifications and sea level rise

    A Section 149 Certificate is a mandatory certificate you need to get when purchasing a property. It is a planning certificate under Section 149 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. 

    Planning certificates give information on the development potential of a parcel of land including the planning restrictions that apply to the land on the date the certificate is issued.  There are three types of 149 Planning Certificates; 149 (2), 149 (2) Clause 3 Complying Development and 149 (2&5).

    Most properties in low-lying parts of the City have had a flood risk notation on the Section 149 certificate since 1997 (or before).

    There has been no change in the number of properties with flood notations (which includes sea level rise) in the last five years (since 2009). 

    In 2012 the specific reference to sea level rise on Section 149 certificates was removed, as this potential future risk was incorporated into the reference to hazard from flooding.

    Are Section 149 certificates on flooding affecting property values?

    The latest real estate information from the Estate Agents Cooperative database shows the capital growth of property values in Marks Point, Swansea, and other areas of the City, have increased. Marks Point has increased by 5.8 per cent,Swanseaby 4.3 per cent, Eleebana by 8.7 per cent and Coal Point by 10 per cent. The average increase across the City was 4.3 per cent.

    Changes in property values have been seen across the City due to factors such as the global financial crisis, housing supply, and interest rates, but these changes affect all types of property, not just those noted as flood-prone.  

    Will Council’s flood studies and sea level rise provisions affect my insurance?

    Some insurance companies offer flood insurance to cover flooding caused by heavy rainfall.  The coverage and premiums vary, so shop around and get good advice before you sign up. The insurance industry only offers flood cover because Councils now have comprehensive flood mapping, hazard assessments, and risk management plans, such as the Lake Macquarie Flood Study and Risk Management Plan. 

    Insurers cover lake, river and stormwater flooding, but do not provide cover against damage caused by ocean events such as storm surge, sea level rise, or tidal inundation. Therefore, there is no charge in your premium for sea level rise.  Rising lake levels will, in the long run, increase flood levels. However, your flood insurance only covers you for the next 12 months so the level of the lake in 20 or 50 years time has no effect on your premium.

    The recent sharp rise in premiums is largely due to natural disasters inQueensland andVictoria, and the effect of international disasters such as Katrina and the Japanese tsunami on the cost of reinsurance.

    What advice does the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure give in relation to noting sea level rise risks on Section 149 certificates?

    The Department of Planning and Infrastructure's Planning Circular PS-11-001, of January 2011, recommended specific wording on Section 149 certificates relating to future storms, coastal erosion, and flooding hazards. Lake Macquarie City Council did not apply this wording to its Section 149 certificates. Subsequently, when the recommended wording was withdrawn in January 2013, Council did not need to take any corrective action.

    Council does have a policy on flooding and tidal inundation, which is referenced in the 'Flood hazard' part of the Section 149(2) certificate. As this policy requires staff to consider current and future flood risks when setting consent conditions for new developments, Council is required by law to notify prospective property purchasers of these special development conditions. This requirement is not affected by Planning Circular PS-11-001, or its subsequent withdrawal.

    Why has Council adopted sea level rise benchmarks of 0.4 metres by 2050 and 0.9 metres by 2100?

    The NSW Government requires that, in determining appropriate sea level rise benchmarks, councils in NSW should consider information on historical and projected future sea level rise that is widely accepted by competent scientific opinion. Council receives its advice on projected sea level rise from pre-eminent scientific sources inAustraliasuch as the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. These organisations produce and analyse scientific evidence about sea level.

    The current rate of sea level rise off the coast of NSW is about 2.6 millimetres per year. The best available evidence is that mean sea level is expected to rise by 0.4 metres by 2050 and 0.9 metres by 2100. This means that sea level is expected to rise quicker in the future than it does now. Australian scientific bodies regularly review measured and projected rates of sea level rise, and they all advise that lower levels of sea level rise are highly unlikely. The next global review of measurements and projections is scheduled in 2014, and this will lead to a review of the Australian information.

    Is my privacy protected?

    Yes! Your privacy is absolutely protected and Council and will only use your email to contact you with updates and to invite you to participate in consultations.

    Your email address and any other information provided by you will not be distributed to any third party or used for any other purpose. We do not ask for your personal details or require them at any time as part of your participation. You may like to review our privacy statement.

    What is freeboard and why is it added to flood planning levels?

    'Freeboard' is a margin of safety applied on top of estimated flood levels to allow for factors such as wind waves, flood debris, the local effects of adjoining structures, changes in rainfall due to climate change, local topography, channel blockages, and filling on the flood plain. The standard allowance for freeboard is 0.50 metres. The NSW Flood Risk Management Guide says that allowance for projected sea level rise should be calculated separately and should not be included in freeboard. Floor levels for new buildings in flood prone areas are typically set at 0.50 metres above the 1:100 year flood level.



    If Council is looking at implementing flood control measures for possible sea level rise in 50 years’ time, then why should residents have it noted on Section 149 certificates now?

    New roads, drains, and homes built today will still be around in 50 to 100 years, so we have to build them now to suit future conditions as well as today’s conditions.

    Under NSW law, Councils have to provide information on any planning policies, hazards, or development controls that apply to a particular property. This includes things such as the land zoning, mine subsidence, State Environmental Planning Policies, and flood risk. This information is supplied on a Section 149 certificate. 

    Because properties in or adjoining flood-prone areas have special development conditions, such as a floor height requirement, this has to be shown on the Section 149 certificate. The Lake Macquarie certificate simply answers the question “Whether or not development on that land or part of that land…is subject to flood related development controls”. For flood prone properties, the answer is “yes”. This applies to all foreshore properties less than 3 metres above the Australian height datum.

    Most properties in Marks Point and Belmont South have had a flood notation similar to this on their Section 149 Certificates since 1997, and many since the 1970’s.

    Effective adaptation planning is timed, so that actions are implemented when they are required, to accommodate increase in risk. This also allows for the best available science and technology to be used when it is needed.

    What is actual sea level rise since 1980 and when did Council first start gathering this data?

    There are three water level gauges in Lake Macquarie operated by the NSW Government, at Swansea, Belmont and Marmong Point. The gauges measure relative water levels. Levels can change due to various factors such as land subsidence or el-Nino cycles, so it is not possible to attribute changes specifically to sea level rise. Measurements of relative lake level from the Belmont gauge indicate a rise of 2.6 mm/year over the last 25 years – a 6.5 centimetre rise since 1986.

    The nearest fully calibrated gauge, at Port Kembla, operated by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, shows a rise of 3.2mm/year since it began measurements in 1991.

    Council has had two independent studies conducted on tidal gauges within the lake to identify any relative increase in lake levels. You can read the reports here.


    Can we get a copy of the demographics report prepared by Council’s sustainable neighbourhood group?

    Yes, this is available on the sustainable neighbourhood website:

    Should we have two policies – current flooding and future sea level rise?

    The Lake Macquarie Waterway Flood Risk Management Study and Plan considers both current flooding, and future flooding incorporating projected future rises in lake level.  The flood level that is used for planning depends on the circumstances. For example, current flood levels are used by insurance companies when they calculate their risks for next year’s insurance. A flood level over 50 years is used when calculating floor levels for a new home. A flood level over 100 years is used when calculating land levels in a major new subdivision.

    What was the 1955 and 1949 flood ARI?

    ARI stands for Annual Recurrence Interval, which is the average or expect value of the periods between exceedances of a given rainfall total over a given duration. A commonly used design flood ARI is the 1 in 100 year ARI, which is the highest level of flood expected over a 100 year period, or, each year there is a 1 per cent chance a flood of that level could occur. 

    There are no Lake Macquarie City flood records available for the 1955 flood event and there was not major flooding in Lake Macquarie. The main reason why people recall this year is the severe flooding at Maitland, when the Hunter River overtopped the levees.

    The June 1949 flood in Lake Macquarie City, the highest flood level recorded, reached circa 1.2m AHD at Marks Point. According to records, the Lake rose gradually after six weeks of above-average rainfall. The Lake Flood Study shows the 1949 flood to be a 1 in 20 year ARI.

    In the 2007 “Pasha Bulker” storm, the Lake rose to 1.1m AHD overnight.

    Why is a section of Marks Point Road zoned 2(2) when Council identified the area as high risk in 2008? The restrictions on buildings in that area were implemented without any consultation.

    The area was zoned 2(2) under the Lake Macquarie Local Environment Plan 2004 to provide housing options including medium density housing around the local centre. Since the adoption of the new Flood Study in 2012 there have been restrictions on in-fill subdivisions on some lots in this area where the land is below 2.0m AHD.

    In the long term, the adaptation planning process needs to inform any changes to land use, and a review of land use will be one of the discussed in the next phase of the adaptation planning process.

    Dredging the channel should be a priority to allow run-off into the lake to get away. Why not have a regular, ongoing dredging program to fix this problem?

    The Flood Study shows that dredging Swansea Channel does not lower flood levels. In fact, under many circumstances, it increases the flood peak by allowing more water to enter the lake from the ocean at high tide, particularly when the ocean is affected by storm surge. Making the channel larger will also increase the tidal range in the lake, making the high tide even higher, and increasing the effect of rising sea levels.

    Current dredging is just to improve navigation. Council continues to lobby the NSW Government for regular dredging when required for navigation, and will continue to do so.

    Over time, houses that are developed will be forced up. Council is suggesting over time they will infill and lift roads and services. What happens to original houses that are not lifted?

    These are some of the issues we hope to answer through the adaptation planning process.

    Swan Bay got its name from the black swans that used to congregate in large numbers. What is Council doing to protect their natural habitat?

    Council continues to work hard to improve the water quality of the lake, as well as investing in lake water quality improvement projects. Earlier this year Council successfully fought to retain a 'Natural Waterway' zoning for Lake Macquarie to protect its natural values, while still allowing responsible use of the lake for recreation.

    The Hunter Bird Observers carry out monthly surveys of wader and waterbirds along Swansea Channel, including Swan Bay, and the results can be found on their website:  

    How is it that the Fernleigh Track extension is going to be built at ground level, through what is the wetlands area?

    There are no flood planning standards for cycleways, although elevations of the track have been adjusted in areas such as Jewells to make some allowance for flooding. The minimum elevation of the cycleway extension will be 1.3m and will be above the 1 in 20 flood level for several decades, even allowing for sea level rise. The cycleway is not considered critical infrastructure, and can be raised or re-routed in future.

    Is there a summary of ‘agreed’ project foundations?

    A summary of Stage 1 - project foundations is available here. However, we note that this process is not one-way, but rather we will continue to collect feedback on all stages through the process. If you’d like to have your say on Part A, project foundations, please complete Survey 1.  

    Please explain how the Section 149 Certificates will be changed and which areas of the lake will be affected by this change?

    There are no proposed changes to Section 149 certificates. Please read over questions above, or the information sheet relating to Section 149 certificates for more information about where they apply and how. 

    Have you followed up with the people who can't sell their houses or are paying a fortune for insurance i.e. the actual people involved not a generic survey. Why can't they sell? Why is their insurance so high?

    Council will investigate and respond to individual concerns relating to property, development or insurance. Council have met with estate agents, valuers, lenders and insurers to better understand any issues they are having with Council’s planning and development policies, and to remove any misunderstanding or barriers that may be affecting the prices of properties or the ability to sell.

    For more information please refer to the information sheet relating to property and insurance

    Council is hosting an insurance information session 'Getting it right - understanding flooding and property insurance' on Thursday 13 February 2014, 6-8pm at Marks Point Primary School.

    Please RSVP your attendance by calling Council on 4921 0333.

    Are the flood maps for Belmont South online?

    Flood maps for Belmont South and Marks Point are available from here.

    Flood maps for other regions of the lake are available in the Lake Macquarie Waterway Flood Study.

    What is the process to apply for voluntary house raising?

    The NSW Government may provide up to 66 per cent of the cost of voluntary house raising through the NSW Floodplain Management Grants Program. However, the program only applies under certain conditions and competes for funds against other flood management measures. The balance of funding comes from Council and/or owners.

    If you are in a flood-prone area and would like to apply for voluntary house raising, please contact Council’s floodplain officer Greg Jones on 4921 0333.

    Can the flood signs in Marks Point be made smaller?

    Council is guided by the NSW Government’s Floodplain Development Manual, April 2005 which recommends flood warning signs and markers be installed to provide advice to the public about flood depths during flood events. 

    The flood signs need to be clearly visible during a severe flooding event.  The predicted one in one hundred year flood height at Marks Point is 1.5 metres above the Australian height datum. This is approximately 0.45 metres higher than the flood height reached during the Pasha Bulker storm and 0.2 metres higher than the flood height recorded during the 1949 storm.

    What is the relationship for maintenance in Marks Point, Belmont South and Swansea between fisheries (Department of Primary Industries, Fishing and Aquaculture) and Council?

    Drainage works on the foreshore are often in areas that contain saltmarsh, mangrove and seagrass. Like all other residents and organisations, Council is obliged to act lawfully in its operations, including the NSW Fisheries Management Act, which prohibits damage to marine vegetation (including mangroves, seagrass and saltmarsh species) without approval. 

    This means that if drainage works are required in areas that contain mangroves, saltmarsh or seagrass, Council needs to obtain approval from Fisheries before undertaking any works. This adds to the complexity of the works, and it takes longer to gain these approvals but, where genuine priority drainage problems occur within Council's drainage system, works are still undertaken by Council in accordance with the approval gained from Fisheries

    In many of the low lying areas of the City, the lack of gradient in the drainage system means that water will 'back-up', especially when lake water levels are higher than usual. This often triggers complaints and requests for the drain to be cleared out. However, digging these drains to a greater depth will not necessarily improve the capacity of the drain as it is the lake water level that is the controlling factor, not the depth of the drain. In these circumstances, Council would not normally undertake maintenance works, as these works are expensive and unlikely to resolve the problem.