Coastal Adaption Planning

10 June 2021
Stafford Hopewell, Special Counsel, Brisbane

Like other coastal councils in Queensland, the City of Gold Coast is focused on managing coastal adaption. To this end, Council’s Coast Adaption Plan (CAP) is the latest step from Council and is intended to guide future investigations and actions.


The City of Gold Coast is one of Australia’s most iconic coastal cities with 52km of beaches and over 400 km of waterways. As such, it is facing a range of risks and hazards associated with rising sea level, storm surges and coastal erosion.

The CAP is focused on building the city’s resilience and will be built into other relevant strategies to facilitate long-term planning for coast resilience and minimising the risk of coastal hazards to communities and valuable city assets such as roads, utilities, parks, natural areas and heritage places.


The CAP is being delivered under the Queensland Government’s QCoast2100 program with the City of Gold Coast one of 31 Queensland councils planning for future coast hazards as part of the program.

The Queensland Government has adopted a projected rise in mean sea level of 0.8m by 2100.

Coastal hazards

Projected sea level rises and other climate changes, such as increased cyclonic activity, present the following key hazards:

  • Sea level rise resulting in permanent sea water inundation of low-lying property and infrastructure.
  • Storm tide surges resulting in temporary inundation during severe weather.
  • Coastal erosion which may be either rapid-onset (occurs very quickly over hours to weeks) or slow-onset (occurring over many years to decades).

Key impacts

The primary impacts forecasted are erosion to the open coast and sea level rise and storm surge on estuaries.

By 2050, a 0.3m mean sea level rise is projected. This will potentially increase the vulnerable area of the city by 20%, including an additional 36km of water and sewage pipes, 33km of road and 746ha of conservation area.

By 2070, a 0.5m mean sea level rise is projected, increasing the vulnerable area of 30% and impact an additional 96km of water and sewage pipes, 67km of road and 1154ha of conservation area.

By 2100, a projected mean sea level rise of 0.8m could result in an additional area exposed to coastal hazards increasing by approximately 42% from present day, impacting an additional 221km of water and sewage pipes, 143km of roads and 1558ha of conservation area.

Planning for risks is often focused on built infrastructure, such as buildings, roads and bridges. However, the CAP identifies conservation areas and parklands as being highly susceptible on the Gold Coast with projections that by 2100, 5411ha of conservation area and 1669ha of open space may be exposed to risk.

Further, whilst coastal hazards are often associated with beachfront areas, much of the urban development on the Gold Coast is located in low-lying areas right back to the hinterland. As such, coastal hazards potentially impact a large area of the city and are not limited to coastal foreshore.


The CAP is a non-statutory plan and does not directly regulate development or infrastructure. However, the CAP is an important step in the continuing evolution of coastal management and will influence further amendment of the City Plan as well as other Council strategies and actions.

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Authored by:

Stafford Hopewell, Special Counsel

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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