Coast needs considered expansion, says academic

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As the Sunshine Coast expands to accommodate half a million residents by 2050, it needs to hold on to what makes it special, says the man teaching the next generation of urban planners.

Dr Nicholas Stevens, Senior Lecturer of Urban Design and Town Planning at the University of the Sunshine Coast, says that while the Sunshine Coast’s development boom brings major job opportunities for graduate town planners, it also brings major challenges.

“It’s a really exciting time for the Sunshine Coast but we are at this tipping point where we are growing up and planning for the future,” Dr Stevens said.

“What we do now will have a legacy impact for generations.

“With all this development pressure, we need to be thinking about how we maintain what makes the Sunshine Coast special, and a lot of planning goes into that kind of context-sensitive development.”

Major projects include a proposed light rail project, rail duplication in the hinterland, the airport expansion, the new Maroochydore town centre and the major residential and commercial developments at Aura and Harmony, as well as smaller developments across the region.

“It’s not just about giving people a roof over their heads, it’s about the whole range of services, the schools, medical centres and parks – the public spaces we use every day,” Dr Stevens said.

“The next big challenge is to look at areas we already have and use them better, like Nicklin Way, which is a premium area close to everything that is underutilised.

“If we continue to only develop on the fringes, then we create a whole range of other challenges.”

Dr Stevens sits on the Sunshine Coast Council’s Urban Design Advisory Panel and coordinates the university’s Urban Design and Town Planning Program, which had a 90 percent employment rate in 2017, and says students are in the fortunate position of studying in a region full of development activity.

“Students have front-row seats to urban design and planning,” he said.

“As part of the course, they work on real projects, undertaking site analyses and impact assessments, community consultation, cultural heritage analyses and come up with concept designs for public spaces and infrastructure projects or work.”

Students may also take field trips to either China, Hong Kong or India in their final year of study.

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