Nick Carroll On: Brace Yourselves, Here's Something To Worry About

6 Jan 2017 103

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL FEATURE

BRACE YOURSELVES! HERE’S SOMETHING TO WORRY ABOUT

The crowds of the future will leave today’s for dead.

One of the funniest things about the great national pastime of a hugely extended Christmas/New Year holiday is the silly season news.

Like — nothing happens for weeks, so the news outlets have to dream up crazy shit to sketch us out. The best bit about most of this shock horror news is it’s kind of harmless.

You don’t have to worry about Irukandjis invading the Superbank, though Channel Seven gave it a bit of a nudge in the New Year break.

You don’t have to worry about “welfare bludgers” either, despite a half hearted pre-Christmas attempt by the News Corp tabloids to drum up a bit of outrage at disability pensioners, who by the way are currently outnumbered in Australia about 25 to one by millionaires. Which why would you even bother mentioning on a surf site, but for the flashback to 50 years ago, when the same papers were frothing about “dole-bludger surfies” living on dog food and yoghurt at Byron Bay.

Yep! We’re the original Bludgers! And look how well that turned out!

But one hard news item should worry us — or at least make us think.

Remember our story last year on the boutique tourist development proposal for previously unbuilt land within sight of Bells Beach?

Last week the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ruled in favour of the development, saying it will “provide a net benefit to the community” — despite 33,000-odd members and friends of that community begging to differ via petition.

It’s probably going to set off a classic turf war in the Bells hinterland, between rich lot owners who don’t want little hotels — even eco-hotels! — popping up in the neighbourhood, and rich lot owners who’ll now be sniffing an opportunity.

But really, it’s nothing compared to what’s happening a few kilometres to the north-east, in the once open lands beyond Torquay.

Here, over the next 20 years or so, between 40,000 and 65,000 people are forecast to take up residence, as developments planned for Armstrong Creek and Spring Creek expand well beyond their original boundaries. Over time a new rail link to Geelong and Melbourne will join the recently completed Geelong motorway bypass, turning farmland into a large commuter suburb.

It’s a coastal boom that leaves the Bells eco-resort in the shade.

Bells is not alone. If Sydney’s northern beaches have existed in a sort of golden haze of Easy Listening surf culture recently, in the wake of the tough-guy ‘70s and 80s, they’re in for a shock over the next two decades, as the semi-rural land on the ridge above North Narrabeen becomes home to another 10,000 people.

And as the dual lane step-up of the Pacific Highway between Brisbane and Sydney nears completion, anywhere within 90 minutes’ drive of a major population centre is likely to find itself hedged in. That means places like the Angourie hinterland. Like the lower mid-north coast.

SEE ALSO: Nick Carroll On, Pay Up Damn It!

Put aside our extant worry about great white sharks for a moment. Australia’s human population is increasing a lot faster than the sharks, and there’s no sign of anyone moving inland.

Instead, we’re gonna press further and further in on the desirable places, with their desirable lifestyles and tag-line names: the “Surf Coast”, the “Peninsula”. And push further and further out into wilder places where not so long ago, barely anyone surfed.

It’s seismic change, the kind of movement that alters everything it touches. And it’ll change surfing too, in ways we can’t easily picture. Yet.

VCAT’s decision will mean a dozen or so people paying to stay where nought but kangaroos currently roam. It will shift things, slightly, as will the handful of other such B&Bs that’ll probably follow. As one old school Bells surfer I talked with this week put it: “It won’t be a rush, it’ll just be a gentle erosion of things.”

And after the erosion, the flood.

Beautiful Bells before the boom, Photo uploaded to CW by Tweddle

Beautiful Bells before the boom, Photo uploaded to CW by Tweddle


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