More than 70% of the population of the Sunshine Coast lives on low lying coastal areas.
Urbanisation of these areas has replaced the natural vegetation of these areas and altered land forms, dune systems and flood regimes. As a result, the Sunshine Coast community is under threat from coastal erosion and storm events. This was evident with the flooding of Mooloolaba and Kawana in 2012, and erosion at Caloundra, Mooloolaba and Maroochydore beaches throughout the summers of 2011 and 2012.
Coastal formation and erosion processes are likely to be changed further under the influence of climate change. These changes will occur in part as a result of sea level rise and an increase in the severity and frequency of severe weather events. However, changes to vegetation cover and dominant weather patterns are likely to be just as important.
A change from south-easterlies to north-easterlies or from on-shore winds to off-shore winds will have impacts on currents and swells and in turn alter beach erosion and replenishment processes. A change in temperature and precipitation will change vegetation types which may help stabilise dunes or cause them to destabilise and erode more quickly.
These changes will alter the landscape on which the Sunshine Coast is built, both physically and socially. It will impact on the scenic amenity as much as it will on coastal activities including surfing, snorkeling and diving. Physical changes (e.g. erosion of beaches and dunes from Caloundra to Coolum) may also threaten homes and community infrastructure.
How we respond to these issues will have significant social, environmental and economic consequences for our community. Do we seek to maintain our current coast line and protect all existing infrastructure? Do we retreat from areas that are too costly to defend? When do we need to make these decisions? What trigger points will there be in the next decades?