The Chair of the National Sea Change Taskforce, Barry Sammels, told members at the 2014 Annual General Meeting that continuing population growth along the coast means there are an increasing number of coastal electorates categorized as being ‘marginal’. The AGM was held at Parliament House Canberra on 3 September.

He said the Taskforce had analysed Federal coastal electorates around the nation and found there are now 18 with a margin of 3% or less, compared to 11 with a similar margin before the last election.

“There is little doubt these seats will play a critical role in the outcome of the next Federal election,” he said.  “This is one of the points we are continuing to make in our engagement with political leaders and coastal MPs.”

Barry Sammels said the latest population figures released by the Bureau of Statistics show that in the year ended June 2013 Australia’s population increased by more than 407,000 people to reach 23.1 million.

“This represents an annual growth rate of 1.8% – the highest annual growth rate recorded in Australia since 2009,” he said.  “The figures also show that coastal areas had particularly strong growth over the year, especially in Western Australia.”

Barry Sammels said the Taskforce had been working closely with the Bureau of Statistics to help develop a new topic for the 2016 Census. The topic is aimed at collecting additional data on the number of people who regularly spend time in second residences.

“The new topic has now been field tested by the ABS in a survey involving 100,000 households in Western Australia and South Australia, and will be forwarded to the Federal Government for approval, with a decision expected before the end of this year,” he said.

Barry Sammels said the Taskforce believes the additional data collected through the topic will be of considerable value to coastal councils for planning purposes and will also help to address the current underestimate of permanent populations in coastal communities.

“We have strongly supported the adoption of the additional census topic in our meetings with Federal MPs and Ministers,” he said.

Barry Sammels highlighted the election of the Coalition Government in September 2013 as a major development during the year. “This led to a review and update of Taskforce policy initiatives in response to new Federal Government policy directions and a reassessment of coastal council priorities,” he said.

“In particular we a calling on the Federal Government to help coastal councils to manage the threats posed by extreme weather events. We are therefore supporting a recommendation by the Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities that additional funding for pre-disaster mitigation and resilience be made available to the states and local government.”