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Alan Stokes joins the program -

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TRACY BOWDEN, PRESENTER: It's 65 years since the end of the Second World War, which means the first
of Australia's baby-boomers are reaching retirement age.

For many, that'll mean a seachange, relocating to a quieter spot, but already popular coastal towns
are struggling to provide adequate health facilities and a range of other Government services as
their population swells.

Alan Stokes heads the National Seachange Taskforce, a group set up to lobby all spheres of
government to help regions prepare for the boom.

I spoke to him from Melbourne.

Alan Stokes, can you paint a picture of some of the towns already struggling with this seachange
phenomenon, what sort of problems are they experiencing?

ALAN STOKES, NATIONAL SEACHANGE TASKFORCE: Well, look there are problems in these coastal
communities in virtually every State.

These are the communities that have experienced enormous growth over the past couple of decades.
Just to give you an idea of that, over the past 12 years from 1996 up to 2008 - and these are the
last and most recent figures that are available - the population in Australia's non-metro coastal
areas increased by 2 million people to nearly 7 million.

So it's a very large cohort of people living by the coast and it's growing at a rate that's roughly
50 or 60 percent higher than the national growth rate.

One of the biggest problems these areas have got is keeping pace with the continuing growth in
demand for infrastructure and services, for health care, for aged-care, for public transport, for
education. They just don't have the resources to keep pace with the sort of demand that's generated
by these growing communities.

TRACY BOWDEN: So what concerns you most about this next phase we're entering, where a number of the
baby-boomers will be looking to head to the coast?

ALAN STOKES: Well, look the baby-boomers are the biggest demographic group in Australia at the
moment. There's just under 4.5 million of them.

We know that there are at least a million baby-boomers who plan to shift to the coast over the next
16 years, beginning in 2010 - that's the year that the baby-boomers have reached retirement age -
and they'll be retiring over the next 16 years.

Now, the coastal communities are having enough difficulty meeting demand for the sort of services
growing communities need already. You add another million people on top of that, and that's really
going to stretch the resources beyond the capacity of local government and local communities to
meet.

TRACY BOWDEN: What can be done about this, though, because a lot of these services and systems that
you're talking about can't simply be delivered overnight?

ALAN STOKES: Well, no they can't and look, I must say that the Rudd and Gillard Governments have
both recognised that there is an issue, and a major issue in terms of dealing with the pressures
and the challenges facing coastal Australia.

They're very complex issues. I mean, we've got the problem of preparing for climate change and
increasing sea level rise. There's the issue associated with ageing populations. These are among
the oldest populations in the country.

Just to give you an idea of that at Victor Harbour in South Australia, the average age of residents
in the community is around 60 years of age compared to 37 for the rest of Australia.

So these are communities that have very special and growing needs, and health and aged-care are
near the top of the list, but also if you've got a rapidly growing ageing community you get to the
stage where people really don't drive very much anymore and so they become more and more dependent
on public transport, but public transport systems just aren't there.

TRACY BOWDEN: These problems have all been identified, what's being done about it?

ALAN STOKES: Well, there was a parliamentary coastal inquiry chaired by the former Federal member
Jenny George.

Jenny took an enormous amount of interest in the issues facing coastal communities and her
parliamentary inquiry was one of the most comprehensive that's ever been conducted into coastal
issues in Australia. The report of that committee was released in Federal Parliament in October
2009, and just a few weeks ago at the end of November, the Minister for Climate Change Greg Combet
released the Government's response to those recommendations.

What we've been hoping for, for years is that the Federal Government will make a commitment to play
a leadership role in terms of addressing the issues facing our coastal communities and also the
coastal environment. And that Government response is a major step, and a major commitment on the
part of the Federal Government to play a leadership role in addressing coastal management issues.

What the Government intends to do is to work collaboratively with state governments and territory
governments through COAG to address the sort of issues that coastal communities in every state are
currently facing. That's a major step forward.

TRACY BOWDEN: Are you confident that's going to be enough, or is it going to be a case of too
little, too late?

ALAN STOKES: Look, it's a question of when it's going to happen. I mean, at the moment our coasts
around Australia are being loved to death. They have a growing number of people who are attracted
to them. That number will increase even further in years to come, and the big challenge for all of
us is to take the steps that are necessary in order to manage growth around the coast, to provide
the infrastructure services, the health care, aged-care, education and all the other services that
growing communities need.

Because at the moment if you live in a metropolitan area in a city around Australia, you've got
access to virtually all the services you need. If you go into one of the coastal communities, you
don't have that same level of access, and that's what we're working towards.

TRACY BOWDEN: Some might say that if all these services are put in place then they won't be the
charming little coastal towns that people were attracted to in the first place?

ALAN STOKES: That is the danger, that the more people who move there, the greater the risk of
losing the character of these small coastal townships and coastal fishing villages and it's that
character, apart from the beach and the ocean itself, that's attracting so many people. That's what
I say, they're in danger of being loved to death. They're in danger of losing the character that
attracts so many people, because so many people respond to it.

TRACY BOWDEN: Alan Stokes, thanks for speaking to us.

ALAN STOKES: Thank you very much.