Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Australian State of the Environment Committee, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06751 5
Environmental indicators reported in this section:
|CO 7.6||Coastal population|
|CO 7.7||Coastal tourism|
Coastal settlement [CO Indicator 7.6]
Increasingly, Australians are moving to coastal environments to live, to retire or to make a living. Some 83% of Australians lived within 50 kilometres from the coast in 1996.
The population of coastal areas is distributed unevenly along the coastline. For example, in Victoria, the most densely populated State with 85% of its population living on the coast, human habitation still occupies less than 10% of the coastline.
People are continuing to shift to the coastal margins of the continent, particularly to the coasts of Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland. These States had higher rates of population growth (1991-1996) in the three kilometre coastal zone compared to the rest of their State. In New South Wales and Queensland alone, an extra 179 000 people moved to the coastal margins (see the Human Settlements Theme Report).
The projections of population growth rates vary widely. For example, the projections for the Richmond Tweed area of northern New South Wales is for an increase in population from 210 000 in 1996 to 311 000 in 2026 (Coastal Council of New South Wales 2001). The critical issue is the impact of existing and future populations scattered in towns, villages and on individual properties along the New South Wales coast.
The projections for 2006 compared with 1996 indicate increases particularly in the areas around Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and the southern coast of Victoria including Melbourne and Geelong (Figure 18).
Figure 18: Projected population changes in population density by IBRA region.
Units are persons per square kilometre. Simple difference between 1997 and 2006 ABS projections. This uses IBRA version 5.
Source: Environment Australia 2001, using Australian Bureau of Statistics (1996) data
Coastal strip development along the coastal edge places increasing pressure on specific coastal habitats. Urban sprawl was identified as one of most important problems faced in the coastal zone by the Resource Assessment Commission (1993).
The effects of human activity can cause the loss, degradation or irreversible change in specific coastal habitats, alter both river and tidal flows, cause erosion of beaches and dunes, change water quality by adding stormwater and domestic and industrial sewage and add litter to the environment. In addition, coastal development often occurs on inappropriate soils, resulting in further environmental effects when these are disturbed. To some extent, changes in particular habitats have been documented in the preceding sections of this chapter. However, coverage of all significant habitats on a national scale is not possible at this time. There is insufficient information readily available on the nature and extent of coastal strip development, and about trends in current patterns of coastal development, to assess environmental impacts on the coastal zone.
Another set of more subtle impacts arises from increasing competition for the use of resources in the coastal environment. The provision of water supply to metropolitan areas can affect coastal water quality. For example, water from the Gippsland Lakes catchment is being diverted to the Thomson Dam and hence into a different catchment, the Port Philip Bay catchment.