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How the Coast has changed in 10 years

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How the Coast has changed in 10 years

The Census provides an interesting snapshot of who we are here on the Coast, and how our population is gradually changing. We compared the statistics between 2016 and 2006 to see what the numbers revealed.

A lot can change in 10 years. Here on the Sunshine Coast, we’ve been experiencing growth on an unprecedented scale and about 20 new residents are settling here every day.

People moving to the Coast cite our laid-back lifestyle, reasonable property prices compared to the southern states, community spirit and of course, spectacular beaches as reasons for their move.

The Sunshine Coast’s metamorphosis from a sleepy collection of disconnected small towns to a vibrant tech-savvy, connected and cosmopolitan region has made Australia sit up and take notice.

We’ve compared the statistics from the 2016 Census with the 2006 Census and discovered some interesting insights into how we’ve changed in 10 years. (Note: while Noosa was part of the Sunshine Coast local government area in 2006, it de-amalgamated in 2016 and our figures have been adjusted to reflect the Sunshine Coast excluding Noosa).

In 2006, the population of the Sunshine Coast local government area was 236,654 compared to 303,389 in 2016. That’s an increase of 28 per cent, or an extra 66,735 people. The Sunshine Coast Council expects our population to increase by about 83,300 people to 386,692 by 2026, at an average annual growth rate of 2.5 per cent.

Interestingly, 20 per cent of our population in 2016 was born overseas compared with 18 per cent in 2006. The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living on the Coast is significantly lower than other parts of Australia. In 2006 they comprised 1.2 per cent of the population compared to 2.3 per cent in Australia. In 2016, that figure was 1.9 per cent compared to 2.8 percent in Australia.

The Sunshine Coast has always been a popular retirement area, and why not? Our climate, natural environment and easygoing pace of life are unsurpassed. The largest demographic is the over 65s and this has grown from 16 per cent in 2006 to 20 per cent in 2016. No wonder we’re seeing so many over 50s villages springing up across the Coast.

Under 15s are the next largest demographic, but this has dropped from 20 per cent in 2006 to 18 per cent in 2016. The median age was 40 in 2006 and 43 in 2016.

If you’re a young single woman who reckons there’s a lack of available guys on the Coast, you may have a point. Women outnumber men, comprising 52 per cent of the population compared with men at 48 per cent in 2016, and these percentages haven’t changed much in the past decade.

Half the population over 15 is also officially off the market. In 2016, 50 per cent of people over 15 were in a registered marriage and 11 per cent were in a de facto marriage, compared with 53 per cent and 10 per cent in 2006.

There are more couples without children than with children, but the figures are pretty close. In 2016, 27 per cent of couples had children and 30 per cent didn’t, compared with 26 per cent with children and 29 per cent without in 2006. The average family has two children and they’re likely to go to a state school, though state school attendance on the Coast has been falling.

In 2006, 72 per cent of students went to a state primary school and 66 per cent went to a state high school. In 2016, those figures dropped to 70 per cent at state primary schools and 62 per cent at state high schools.

Sunshine Coasters love getting active in the great outdoors, but we also love relaxing  at home, and the majority of us are homeowners. Of the 129,978 dwellings on the Coast, 32 per cent were owned outright in 2016 (34 per cent in 2006) and 31 per cent were owned with a mortgage (29 per cent in 2006.) But having that home, sweet home is getting more expensive. The average monthly mortgage has risen in the past 10 years, from $1300 in 2006 to $1800 in 2016.

The percentage of people renting hasn’t changed, staying at 28 per cent in 2006 and 2016, and if you’re renting on the Coast, you’re probably doing it tougher than other areas of Australia. The percentage of people on the Sunshine Coast with rental payments greater than or equal to 30 per cent of household income is 35 per cent, compared with 29 per cent in Queensland and 28 per cent in Australia. Our median rent of $370 is substantially higher than Queensland’s median rent ($330) and Australia’s median rent ($335). In 2006, the average weekly rent was just $240 – an increase of 54 per cent.

When it comes to the types of homes we live in, low density housing is the most popular, but is making way for higher density housing. In 2016, 70 per cent of people lived in low density housing or separate dwellings compared with 74 per cent in 2006. Only 17 per cent lived in medium density housing, but that figure is up from 15 per cent in 2006, and 10 per cent are in high density housing, up from six per cent in 2006.

Our incomes have increased in the past 10 years, but not as much as we’d like. In 2016, the median weekly household income was $1267 compared with $898 in 2006.

Religious affiliation was an area that saw big changes.

In 2006 the largest religious group was Anglicans, comprising 22 per cent of the population, with an equal number citing ‘no religion’. Catholics were the third most populous group, comprising 20 per cent. In 2016 34 per cent of people identified as having ‘no religion’ – a 12 per cent increase. Catholics are the next largest group at 18 per cent and Anglicans at 17 per cent.

English was the dominant language at 92 per cent in 2006 but this dropped to 89 per cent in 2016. In 2006, the five most common languages spoken at home (other than English) were German, Italian, Dutch, French and Spanish. In 2016, it was German, French, Afrikaans, Italian and Mandarin.

The number of people over 15 in full-time work has dropped slightly over the past 10 years, from 32 per cent in 2016 to 30 per cent in 2016, while the number of over 15s hasn’t changed, remaining at 22 per cent.

What we do for a crust hasn’t changed a lot, though professionals are on the rise.

In 2006, 17 per cent were technicians and tradies (16 per cent in 2016), 16 per cent were professionals (19 per cent in 2016), 13 per cent were managers (12 per cent in 2016), 13 per cent were clerical and administrative workers (13 per cent in 2016), sales workers and labourers comprised 12 per cent (12 per cent and 10 per cent in 2016) and 10 per cent were community and personal service workers (12 per cent in 2016).

Finally, we conducted our own survey and 100 per cent of respondents agreed the Sunny Coast is still the best place in the world to live!

Special thanks to Paul McKinlay at Sunshine Coast Council for his assistance in compiling these statistics.


Oliver, Maggie, Fiona, Locky and Jason Howett of Warana

Meet a typical Sunshine Coast family according to the statistics

Fiona Howett is 42, husband Jason is 44, their sons Oliver 10, and Locky nine, go to a state school and they all love surfing. They live one street away from the beach at Warana.

The couple moved to the Sunshine Coast from Melbourne in 2003 and married in 2006. Mr Howett works full-time in insurance and his wife works part-time as a homestay coordinator and international student liaison officer at Mountain Creek State High School.

Like many other Sunshine Coasters, they have a dog, Maggie, and two cars. Mr Howett works from home with occasional trips to the office in Brisbane. He prefers to drive to Landsborough or Morayfield and catch the train rather than tackle the Bruce Highway.

“The weather was a big reason why we moved here,” says Mrs Howett. “We just packed our car up and drove the whole east coast from Melbourne to New South Wales and were going to go as far as Noosa. We stopped at Mooloolaba, saw the beach and the barbecue area and the little shops and how rustic they were, and we thought, oh my god, this is like a holiday. We thought, let’s just stop here.”

They initially lived at Alexandra Headland and Mrs Howett managed a restaurant before landing a marketing and promotions job at Hot 91.1FM the year it launched. They then moved to Buddina, followed by their current home in Warana, 300 metres from the beach.

“In our street we have like, 10 kids, and they’re all down at the beach in the afternoon having a swim. The kids hardly ever have organised playdates, they just go from house to house and a lot of the time they’re outside kicking the ball or begging us to go for a surf. When we’re at the beach, I’m just sitting there thinking, oh my gosh, do they realise how amazing this is?

“One of the things that’s kept me from wanting to move anywhere else is we have a real sense of community here,” she says.

“Everybody helps everybody and I get a mushy feeling about the Sunshine Coast. When I go back to Melbourne and tell them ‘in our street we do this’, they’re amazed – they don’t even know their neighbours.

Mr Howett and the boys are keen surfers and in summer, are up between 5.30am and 6am to head to the beach.

“My boys are the typical Australian boys who live by the beach, play guitar, skateboard and play soccer and AFL – we will not take the Victorian part out of us.

“I try to get to the beach every morning with my dog and I do a morning video for my family scattered around the world – my brother is in Hong Kong, another brother is in London – I’m trying to convince them to move here. My parents are moving here in a couple of weeks.”

Mrs Howett has noticed the amount of vacant land on the Sunshine Coast dwindling and lots of new infrastructure in the Buddina area, and while she’s happy with the increase in cultural activities on the Coast, she’d like better public transport.

“A better transport system would mean we don’t have to drive everywhere and parents don’t have to drive kids everywhere. “They say our bus system is great, but I think it could be better.

“Traffic has increased in the past 10 years, but I don’t want to say the word ‘traffic’, because all you need to do is go to Melbourne or Sydney and you’re slapped in the face with what traffic really is.

“I don’t know if it’s because of social media or because the place is getting bigger, but there’s definitely a vibe going on. People are creating bigger and better events and it seems like the budgets are getting bigger.

“When I first got here I struggled a bit, I was a city girl and loved it. It took me a while to settle in. It was much slower, the birds chirped all the time, it was so frustrating.

“You feel guilty staying in bed here. I used to love sleeping in, but now I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I keep reminding the kids how amazing it is, because they’ve had it all their life.

“I just breathe in that air and look at that ocean and think, this is the only way to start the day.”


Leigh Robshaw is a journalist who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years. Originally from Sydney, she has lived and worked in London, Tokyo and Latin America. She joined the team in 2012 and is MWP's deputy editor. Writing, reading and travel are her greatest passions.

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