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5 August, 2021

Rising sea levels a threat

THE perils related to living in the far north are well documented. Residents not only contend with stingers, crocodiles as well as a host of snakes, but also natural disaster is never far from our minds.

By Peter McCullagh

Major erosion is a major issue at Holloways Beach, Division 8 Cr Rhonda Coghlan with the Draft Strategy

The Cairns Regional Council administers over 120 kilometres of coastline, in addition to public amenities, many situated less than one kilometre from the high tide marker.

 Last week, Cairns Regional Council released the draft Our Cairns Coast: Adapting for the Future strategy document. This draft strategy outlines the challenge we face in the coming decades from the threat of erosion or inundation through storm and tidal surges as well as projected sea level rises.

With much of Cairns built on tidal plains we are, and will continue to be at risk from the ocean.

In the lead up to Cyclone Yasi the Cairns Hospital was evacuated as a storm surge threatened to inundate this essential infrastructure.

Of concern at the time was also the ability of the Cairns Airport along with sewage treatment facilities in Cairns to operate if the planned tidal surge eventuated.

Fortunately, Yasi turned south and Cairns was spared. However, the threat remains, much of our essential infrastructure remains at threat from inundation or sea level rises.

 The draft strategy identifies 588 priority Council and community assets that could be at risk from storm tide inundation, sea level rise or erosion by the year 2100 if no action is taken to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Council has also mapped the potential areas affected by coastal hazards by 2100 in key coastal locations based on the State government’s mandated 0.8m sea level rise, and outlines proposed actions to address these hazards.

Detailed within the strategy are community assets at risk, along with infrastructure urgently necessitating relocation or modification to allow for even a modest 0.30 metre rise in sea level.

In Yorkeys Knob, public assets including nine sewage pumping stations, the school, golf course, toilets blocks as well as sewerage and water pipes will require modification or relocation.

It is a similar situation with Holloways and Machans Beach. Sewage pump stations, community halls as well as the Australian Federal Police Asset and Radar Station are at risk from rising sea levels.

Division 8 Councillor Ronda Coghlan believes we need to plan for the future, “We have a responsibility to protect this generation as well as future generations.

“The modelling we are obligated to work under is applied across the length and breadth of Queensland with predictions up to 0.80 metre potential rise in sea levels by 2100.

“What we do not know now, is the impact on the modelling of all the steps being taken in Australia and around the world like carbon-offsets and carbon reductions.

“However, what we do know is that if we fail to take reasonable precautions now, ramping up in years to come will prove to be too little too late.

“Cairns’ residents have an opportunity to have a say regarding this strategy, no matter what their personal belief is on climate change. It does not matter. This is an opportunity to be better informed and participate in forming a strategy for the future of this beautiful coastal city,” Cr Coghlan said.

The Our Cairns Coast: Adapting for the Future  strategy will be available for public consultation until Sunday August 31 via the Have Your Say section on Council’s website (

Members of the community can provide written feedback or attend drop-in information sessions with details to be provided on the Our Cairns Coast webpage.

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