Academic journal article Queensland Review

Managing the Environment in a Sea Change Community: Impacts and Issues on the Capricorn Coast

Academic journal article Queensland Review

Managing the Environment in a Sea Change Community: Impacts and Issues on the Capricorn Coast

Article excerpt


In 2004, the National Sea Change Taskforce (NSCT) was established in response to the way in which accelerated growth and development in sea change communities is negatively impacting on those areas' ecology, society and economy. The NSCT is a collective of more than 68 council planners from around Australia charged with working collaboratively with state and federal tiers of government to develop policies that will protect the coastal environment and establish sustainable limits to growth.

'Sea change' involves the unprecedented movement of people, in particular Baby Boomers but also younger people who are able to find jobs, from cities to coastal areas for the lifestyle change. Initially, sea changers are attracted to these coastal communities by natural assets such as beaches, rural landscapes and green spaces. It is the attraction of a sense of 'place' that brings growth to these coastal communities (National Sea Change Taskforce, 2006). Recently, improved career prospects have become another attraction for sea changers. The 'sea change' phenomenon will continue for the next twenty years at least, largely as a result of retiring Baby Boomers. Moreover, the total population in sea change areas will continue to increase at a faster rate than the nation as a whole over this same period (Howe, 2007). This is estimated to bring an additional one million people to coastal areas around Australia in every state (National Sea Change Taskforce, 2006).

This paper provides a case study of one sea change community which is experiencing negative impacts from this growth. Using an environmental history perspective, the paper explores demographic change on the Capricorn Coast over the past 30 years, and highlights significant issues arising as a result which affect the coast's environmental management. The Capricorn Coast is a 'coastal lifestyle destination', being more than three hours' drive from a capital city. Newcomers are attracted by the lifestyle, leisure and tourism appeal. The newly formed Rockhampton Regional Council, the local authority responsible for the Capricorn Coast (which was governed by the Livingstone Shire Council prior to the recent Queensland local government amalgamations), finds itself in the challenging position, along with other local authorities, of wanting to promote growth and development, but having to also address the negative aspects of rapid coastal growth. The paper highlights the challenges facing the whole community if we wish our sea change communities to remain ecologically sustainable.

The Capricorn Coast

The Capricorn Coast is an approximately 50 kilometre stretch of coastline in Central Queensland with the city of Rockhampton, about 40 kilometres inland, its regional centre. The principal Capricorn Coast settlements of Yeppoon and Emu Park (see Figure 1) had slow, inauspicious starts in the late 1860s, although they were the first resorts to be built beside the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. They were similar sizes until about 1912, but from that point the populations of the two towns diverged significantly. While Yeppoon developed into a commercial centre for farmers in the surrounding parishes, Emu Park was a fading resort by the 1930s, owing to poor public amenities, an unreliable water supply, high prices and an apathetic town attitude towards visitors (Stock, 1982). However, since the early 1990s the Capricorn Coast has seen remarkable growth in building activity as a 'sea change' destination. The physical environment and sub-tropical climate--including the ocean, beaches, cooling sea breezes and rural vistas--continue to attract growth and newcomers.

Many deleterious human--environment interactions stem from what can simply be termed 'people pressure' as a result of fairly sudden increases in population and development. This pressure commonly manifests itself in urban sprawl and in the subsequent degradation of natural and cultural heritage such as waterways, habitats, biodiversity, dune systems, historic sites and parks. …

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