The suburbanisation of coastal Australia
Timothy F Smith, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
Michael Doherty, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
prepared for the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2006
Responses to the suburbanisation of the coast have varied from localised reactions to specific pressures, to attempts to coordinate and focus effort at proactive planning, research and management across broader regions. In early 2004, ‘sea change’ councils from around Australia banded together to form the National Sea Change Taskforce. Their membership currently includes 62 local councils, representing over four million people (National Sea Change Taskforce 2005). Although some local governments express desires to shift the planning paradigm towards meeting the aspirations of its constituents—while improving social, economic and environmental services—the reality of many councils is the struggle to provide for (and maintain) adequate hard and soft infrastructure. A few local councils, such as Noosa in Queensland and Surf Coast Shire in Victoria, have attempted to limit future population growth because infrastructure such as water supply cannot keep pace with the growth, and the cumulative adverse impacts on the natural environment cannot be adequately managed. On the other hand, there are some other local councils that seem prepared to put up with the adverse environmental, economic, and social consequences of the ‘sea change’ phenomena and have actively supported surges in migration and tourism, because more people equates to more rates, more spending, more jobs, and a potentially stronger local economy.
The commitment of other tiers of government to tackle ‘sea change’ issues has recently been evident in coastal management planning activities in some of the states (for example, the New South Wales Inquiry in Coastal Infrastructure Provision and the Victorian Coastal Spaces Initiative). Furthermore, the sign on (of the majority of the states) to the national coastal framework, developed by the Intergovernmental Coastal Advisory Group, and facilitated by the Australian Government, is also evidence of a coordinated attempt to manage the impacts on Australia’s coastal areas.
The Australian Government's recent focus on 'sea change' areas has also been evident in parliamentary debates, such as Senator the Honourable Santoro's (2005) speech 'Coming to Grips with the Sea Change Challenge', and the Commonwealth Environment Minister Ian Campbell's recent (2005) announcement, in response to past ad hoc coastal development decisions, of the need for a cooperative approach between Federal, State and local governments to develop a 30-year plan for Australia's coastal zone. This proposal would break the coast into regional segments that would be managed cooperatively between all three tiers of government, with planning, development, population shifts and the environment being managed in an integrated way.