Planners visualise more 'gold coasts'

Revised population estimates for Australia will see more and more people flocking to the coast to live, adding the equivalent of 11 new Gold Coasts to coastal communities during the next 40 years - but Byron Bay won't be one of them.

The reason for that, according to Byron Mayor Cr Jan Barham, is that the town's population has been pegged by the Far North Coast Regional Strategy at 19 per cent growth during the next 20 years.

The peg had been applied, said the mayor, for a number of reasons, with the Bay's popularity as a tourist destination one of them.

Because of huge tourist numbers at peak times, the town wouldn't be able to cope with a greater permanent population growth as well, she said.

Cr Barham said because of the town's tourism focus, it had been identified the town couldn't have both.

“The government accepted our lower growth because of the impact of tourism,” she said.

Cr Barham said another reason for the lower growth rate related to the physical constraints on available land, including the Belongil Fields site and the adjacent Kirklands land.

The coastal population projections have come from the National Sea Change Taskforce after analysing the latest Federal Treasury estimates.

The taskforce, which represents non-metropolitan coastal councils, said the projected growth was likely to increase the population in regional coastal communities by up to 90 per cent.

The revised Treasury projections indicated the national population would increase to 35 million by 2049, which was seven million higher than previously thought.

Taskforce executive director Alan Stokes said the analysis indicated at least 4.8 million of the additional population would need to be accommodated in non-metropolitan coastal areas because of the limits to the capacity of capital cities to absorb the expected growth.

Mr Stokes said add in the million or more baby boomers who planned to retire to the coast between 2010 and 2026 and it would expand the present population in non-metropolitan areas from 6.4 million to 12.2 million by 2049.

“This is the equivalent of adding more than 11 new Gold Coasts to the population of these communities which already have the highest growth rates in Australia,” he said.

“Planning to meet community needs associated with this growth is a matter of great urgency and will require an entirely new collaborative approach by the three spheres of government.

“And let's not forget, these are the communities that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.”

FOOTNOTE: The Byron Shire's permanent population is around 30,000 (28,767, 2006 Census) and Byron Bay has about 10,000 permanent residents.

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