Australia’s population growth pattern is forever changing. Today, nearly 20% of Australia’s population lives on the coast outside capital cities and the number is growing by 60,000 people a year.
While Brisbane has been Australia’s fastest growing capital city in recent years, population growth along the coast north and south-east of Brisbane has been even faster fuelled by sustained tourism and more Australians seeking a sea-change lifestyle. Three of Australia’s top four fastest growing coastal lifestyle towns lie in Queensland. Hervey Bay is growing by 5.1% a year, followed by the Sunshine Coast (3.8%) and the Gold Coast (3.5%). By comparison, Brisbane is growing at 2.5%, Melbourne (1.5%) and Sydney (1%).
Dreams of a lifestyle of fabulous beaches, access and views of the water and a consistently warm climate attract many visitors to these regions to return and stay.
New settlers in the 1970’s who were seeking a simple life, did not greatly impact on the daily life of the seaside towns. Retirees looking to spend their twilight years with others in an idyllic setting represented the next wave of new settlers. While they brought differing levels of wealth, they also demanded more than basic levels of community services. Their growing political clout produced results, too.
The age of new Seachange residents has been steadily falling as more and more successful business people seek a changed lifestyle to accompany their new wealth and more people daily commute to major employment centres from the coastal towns.
Better highways extended the viable commuting distance to Brisbane while improved telecommunications allows new businesses to be run from previously remote locations. Each new highway development announcement attracts speculative land purchases pending development. These trends combine to accelerate the move to a coastal Australia, what has been called by one prominent researcher as the “culture of the beach”.
But everything is not all rosy at the beach.
Competition for properties stimulates further land sub-division and permanently changes the amenity of costal towns that was once their main allure. Pressure to grow and build always seems get ahead of the vision and planning and funding capabilities of local government. There are many scars to remind new and longer residents of the price of rapid growth.
Increasing higher expectations of each subsequent wave of new settlers for improved roads, water and sewerage expectations puts local and State governments under immense financial pressure for capital works.
Local seachange economies have been described as consumption urban landscapes. It takes considerable time, heavy government and private investment to develop diversity and depth in the industries that can be supported by coastal towns. For every 1,000 new residents of a seaside town, up to 25 new retail jobs are created, mainly in food and household goods.
Seachange is not always, forever.
People often leave within two years of their arrival, either back to their former home town or to seek out something better. Failure to integrate into the local community, separation from friends and family and the lack of health and community facilities are cited as reasons for moving on.
Hiring with a car rental Brisbane service when touring and investigating possible seachange towns is a good start. However, you need more than a holiday or short stay in your targeted coastal towns, as they do not always reveal what you will experience when you relocate there. Carry out plenty of research before you commit. Try renting for six months before you buy to see if a seachange will work for you.
Seachange is an increasingly more important phenomenon that is shaping the face of Australia’s population distribution.
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