Department of the Environment

About us | Contact us | Publications

Header imagesHeader imagesHeader images



Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Our Sea, Our Future
Major findings of the State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia

Compiled by Leon P. Zann
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville Queensland

Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra (1995)
ISBN 0 642 17391 5

4. General issues and pressures affecting Australia's marine environment

Coastal modifications

The great majority of Australia's population is concentrated within the coastal zone of the east, south-east and south-west. Much of the coastline in these areas has been significantly altered by urban, industrial and port development, and by a variety of facilities for tourism and recreation.(1),(40)

Major coastal impacts include coastal engineering structures such as breakwaters and seawalls associated with ports, harbours, canal estates and marinas, and reclamations. Estuaries and the coastal lakes and lagoons in the south-east have been particularly affected by seawall construction and there have been significant local losses in saltmarsh, mangrove and seagrass habitats. Beach erosion, which has been occurring naturally in many parts of Australia in geologically recent times, is an increasing problem in many areas. Erosion is expected to accelerate in the following decades if sea level rises resulting from the enhanced greenhouse effect do eventuate(40),(41). Sea level rises, erosion of shorelines in coastal lakes and estuaries, up-stream diversions of sediment (for example, through engineering works intended to remedy erosion) all pose significant threats to sites of cultural importance(84).

The coastal changes have been most extensive in the more populous south-east and south-west, but they have also occurred in other coastal towns, ports and resorts, and to a minor extent in rural areas. Although they have affected a relatively small proportion of the continent's coastline, many have been in areas of particular ecological and fisheries importance and with particular aesthetic appeal. Around 70% of the coastline remains sparsely inhabited and most of Australia's coastline is still in a generally pristine condition(1),(40).

Figure 83

Figure 83 and 84: Coastal growth has been rapid in non-metropolitan areas over the past 20 years. Growth rates in the coastal growth regions, 1971-91 (excluding capital cities).Foreshore development and beach erosion are serious issues in many places around Australia. (a) Beaches and dunes along Queensland's Gold Coast erode during heavy seas because breakwaters constructed 'upstream' on the Tweed River in New South Wales stop natural sand replenishment. (b) Residential beach front development near Perth.