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From fibro shacks to McMansions: considering the impact of housing change on the sense of place in the historic Victorian coastal towns of Sorrento and Queenscliff
conference contributionposted on 2013-01-01, 00:00 authored by Ursula De JongUrsula De Jong, Robert Fuller, Fiona GrayFiona Gray
Eighty per cent of Australians now live within 50 kilometres of the coast.1 While most of the population remains concentrated in the large capital cities, some people have chosen small coastal towns as their permanent and or second-home destination. Greater mobility and income has increased the feasibility and attractiveness of living in these once overlooked and forgotten towns. The arrival of these new residents has changed the towns in both positive and negative ways. Declining traditional industries have been replaced by tourism and service sectors, providing a much-needed economic revival. The expectations of new residents, both permanent and non-permanent, however, have also brought challenges to the towns. Metropolitan value systems sometimes impact negatively on the unique sense of place and neighbourhood character of these towns. This paper presents both quantitative and qualitative evidence of the impact on character and sense of place in two historic coastal towns, Queenscliff and Sorrento, in southern Victoria. Census data shows how employment and the number of permanent residents have changed radically over the last 50-60 years, altering the social fabric of the towns. An analysis of the building footprint over a similar timeframe shows a growth in building size as larger houses become more common, and a growth in planning appeals for the towns is indicative of a clash of expectations between the council, long-time and new residents. While these indicators demonstrate the impact on the character of the towns as defined by their built environment, some oral accounts of local residents are used to show the emotional impact of these changes on the traditional sense of place associated with these towns. Some specific examples of changes to the built environment are provided to demonstrate that local planning schemes are not always successful in protecting neighbourhood character and that further measures are required in order to safeguard the uniqueness of coastal towns from the negative aspects of development.