Simon Lloyd

Tsunamis aside, you actually have to wonder about absolute seafront properties – ‘treechange’ could win over ‘seachange’ after all.

Head for the hills

At 9.30 in the morning on Monday, April 2, I received the following text message from a friend of mine: “Please sell my house: 6 bedroom, 2 kitchen, 3 bathroom, 4 carspace, tropical pool, absolute waterfront, Hillview Crescent, Whitfield Beach, Cairns.”

For those unfamiliar with Cairns, Hillview Crescent is, while undeniably salubrious, nevertheless some three kilometres from the nearest waterfront, and the suburb of Whitfield has yet to have the suffix “Beach” added to it.

My mate’s SMS was, of course, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the tsunami warning which, that Monday morning, sent much of the population of this city quite doo-lallie.

I’m not about to debate whether people were right to respond in a fashion so panicked that they gridlocked the Kuranda Range Road, believing that you need to be at least 400 metres above sea-level to escape a tidal wave.

But Monday’s episode did get me thinking about coastal property in eastern Australia and its vulnerability. Not so much to gigantic tsunamis, but to the more general and ongoing threat of steadily rising sea-levels, and what is already happening by way of erosion and encroachment as a consequence.

Anybody who believes that absolute waterfront property values will always command a premium might want to think carefully when considering the “seachange” vs the “treechange”.

For instance, some of the most concerned people in Cairns were in the suburb of Clifton Beach, much of which is actually no longer a beach but a sea-wall made of giant boulders, built by the council in the past 12 months to stop the houses across the Esplanade from flooding during king tides.

It seems to be working, but you have to ask for how long. These homes have lost much of their water view thanks to these huge rocks, and For Sale signs outside a few of these properties are looking distinctly distressed.

It’s not unreasonable to suggest that what’s happening at Clifton Beach is the sort of intervention that will become more and more essential along thousands of kilometres of our eastern seaboard.

I haven’t listed my friend’s property in Hillview Crescent for sale just yet, but I can wait…


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