A landmark study into the impact of non-resident populations on coastal communities has now been released. The study found a large number of people were missing from these communities when the 2011 Census data was collected.

Professor Graeme Hugo, who presented a report on the research project at the Australian Coastal Councils Conference in Adelaide on 25 March, said the findings had important ramifications for coastal councils and their communities.

Read the report Time and Tide Report Final

“Australia has one of the most mobile populations in the world,” he said. “This is a relatively recent trend in many developed countries which makes collecting data for the Census more difficult.”

“It is one of the reasons why there is such a discernible difference between the number of people in coastal communities in winter, when the Census is conducted, and at other times of the year when many people such as absentee property owners and tourists are present.”

In many coastal areas there is a big difference between population peaks in summer and holiday periods and the permanent population figures which are used to calculate the allocation of resources such as financial assistance grants.

Professor Hugo said a survey of more than 2,100 non-resident property owners in coastal areas around Australia found that nearly 70% of their properties were not occupied on the night the 2011 census was conducted.

“If the Census was conducted in summer rather than winter a much larger percentage of these properties would be occupied and therefore we would get a totally different picture of the population numbers in coastal council areas,” he said.

“When you add the people ‘missing’ from the Census to the number of tourists staying in these communities you get some idea of the number of people using local services and facilities who do not show up in the data on permanent population.”

The study found that by adding these two groups together the population of the Mornington Peninsula Shire, for example, would have increased by more than 30,000, Cairns Regional Council by almost 29,000, Shoalhaven City Council by more than 22,000 and the City of Mandurah (WA) by nearly 12,000.

The findings will form part of a submission to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which is conducting a major review of the Census content and methodology.

Read the report Time and Tide Report Final