Growing sustainably
  • Last updated:
  • 15 Jun 2022

A growing region

The Sunshine Coast is a popular place – it always has been. The historic growth of the Sunshine Coast is continuing, with more people coming here for work and business, as well as to enjoy the climate, beaches, waterways, hinterland and rainforests we love. 

Council can’t stop people moving here, but we can balance the need for new housing and workplaces by protecting what we love about our region.

A clear vision, careful planning and good design can safeguard a place from changing in negative ways.   If nothing is done, population growth can result in more traffic, higher housing prices and a loss of local identity.

Growing sustainably takes a clear vision and careful planning

To prepare for a Sunshine Coast in 2041, we need to look to the future and start planning for the next phase of growth now.  We need to plan for those who currently live here as well as for approximately 170,000 additional residents forecast by 2041.

Sunshine Coast Council has a clear vision for managing growth that is reflected in our Corporate Plan, regional strategies and current planning scheme. The new planning scheme will build on this strong policy framework, set the vision for the Sunshine Coast in 2041 and guide growth and development to help achieve that vision.

ImageGrowing sustainably - your questions answered[2017KB]

So the Sunshine Coast is growing…

What is the history of growth on the Sunshine Coast? What are some of the opportunities growth has brought to our region? What is our forecast population growth and can we stop people moving to the Sunshine Coast? How will our environment be protected and good quality design be achieved? How will we preserve our lifestyle and what we love about the Sunshine Coast? How will the new planning scheme plan for our growing population? Does council have a plan for transport?

Click on the links below to find out more.

The Sunshine Coast local government area is located on Kabi Kabi peoples’ and Jinibara peoples’ traditional lands.  The Kabi Kabi peoples’ and Jinibara peoples’ connection with the Sunshine Coast stretches back to time immemorial. It remains their home, a fundamental part of their identity and provides spiritual nourishment.

The Sunshine Coast is also home for other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have moved to the region over time and generations. The contributions of Traditional Custodians and their partnership with council and the broader community will continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the identity of the region.

The first European settlement on the Sunshine Coast occurred in the mid-1800s with the establishment of farms, a timber industry and the region’s oldest hinterland towns.

 The 1960s saw the initial rapid growth of the coastal areas.

By 1980, the population of the Sunshine Coast was close to 70,000 residents and growth accelerated again in the 1980s and 1990s as the region was recognised as one of Australia’s most attractive lifestyle destinations.

As people continue to be attracted to the Sunshine Coast as a highly desirable place to live and invest, our population will continue to grow. The Sunshine Coast’s population has grown consistently at a rate of around 2.5% since the 1970s. Over the past 20 years, the population has grown by 125,500 residents. For the past 10 years, between 6,800 and 8,800 additional residents have come to the Sunshine Coast every year.

The current population of the Sunshine Coast is approximately 350,000 residents.  The population is forecast to grow by approximately 170,000 residents to reach approximately 520,000 residents by 2041.  (Queensland Government Statisticians Office population projections, 2018 edition data (Medium Series), 2018 and ABS 3235.0, Population by age and sex, regions of Australia, 2016).

Evolution of growth on the Sunshine Coast


Data sources: A OESR Queensland Government, Queensland Past and Present: 100 Years of Statistics 1896-1996, 2009; ABS, ERP by local government area, 2019; C OESR, Queensland Government population projections, 2018

Since the late 1990s, growth has generated notable new investments in major infrastructure on the Sunshine Coast, including the new international runway at the Sunshine Coast Airport, the University of the Sunshine Coast, Sunshine Coast Stadium and the Sunshine Coast University Hospital.  These, as well as other new investments (such as the new Maroochydore City Centre) form part of our region’s major development projects, which are showcased in the video below.

Key services and infrastructure supporting our community as we grow


These, as well as other new investments (such as the new Maroochydore City Centre) form part of our region’s major development projects, which are showcased in the video below.

The population on the Sunshine Coast is forecast to grow from approximately 350,000 residents in 2021 to approximately 520,000 residents in 2041. This forecast population is based on medium series projections from the Queensland Government’s Statisticians Office (QGSO). 

 Council can’t stop people moving here, but we can balance the need for new housing and workplaces by protecting what we love about our region.

The state government, through the South East Queensland Regional Plan 2017 (ShapingSEQ), sets the region-wide plan for managing forecast population growth. Using 2016 dwelling numbers as a base, ShapingSEQ identifies that 87,000 new dwellings will be required on the Sunshine Coast by 2041.

Sunshine Coast Council is required under legislation to ensure that the new planning scheme reflects ShapingSEQ, including by showing how the new planning scheme will manage the forecast population growth and dwelling supply to 2041.

There is already clearly defined state, regional and local planning strategies in place that will guide the policy and growth management direction for our new planning scheme.

As detailed in Forecast population growth above, the state government, through ShapingSEQ establishes the region wide policy framework for managing growth on the Sunshine Coast. ShapingSEQ sets boundaries for urban growth by defining an Urban Footprint and rural residential growth by defining a Rural Living Area.

Approximately 14.5% of the Sunshine Coast is currently included in the Urban Footprint. Major urban uses or subdivisions are generally not permitted to occur outside of the Urban Footprint.

ShapingSEQ also seeks to use land more efficiently by promoting growth policies which support a greater level of consolidation (infill development) over urban expansion (greenfield development). An increased emphasis on infill development recognises that continued urban expansion at the edge of existing communities could have significant negative consequences for the sustainability of the SEQ region as a whole.

ShapingSEQ identifies that (from 2016) 87,000 new dwellings will be required on the Sunshine Coast by 2041, of which 53,700 dwellings (62%) are to be supplied through consolidation and 33,300 dwellings (38%) are to be supplied through expansion. The aim of this policy is to slow the rate of urban sprawl and to protect important greenspaces, rural landscapes and inter-urban breaks.

ShapingSEQ Dwelling Supply Benchmarks 2041

ShapingSEQ Additional dwellings required between 2016 and 2041

The new planning scheme will build on the strong foundation for growth management in the current Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme 2014 in meeting the ShapingSEQ dwelling supply benchmarks to 2041.

The Sunshine Coast is a special place to live. We all love and enjoy the climate, relaxed outdoor lifestyle, vibrant and unique communities, and distinctive natural landscapes.

Through proactive planning, led by planning documents such as the new planning scheme, we can protect and enhance the things we value about our region, and we can ensure that both the natural and built environment supports our vision for the region’s future.

Council’s Corporate Plan and endorsed strategies provide a strong policy framework for the new planning scheme.

The Environment and Liveability Strategy sets strategic directions to guide the actions of council and its partners to ensure a healthy environment and liveable Sunshine Coast to 2041. Important elements include the Blue Heart, the Regional Inter-urban Break and other greenspaces including the Lower Mooloolah River Greenspace, the coast and the mountain view (hinterland/range).

The Sunshine Coast Design Strategy and the Sunshine Coast Design Book set the framework for achieving good design outcomes on the Sunshine Coast. The book includes 10 design principles based on what our community values about the Sunshine Coast.

The new planning scheme will seek to integrate council’s endorsed strategies with land use planning.

The new planning scheme will manage future growth and development across the Sunshine Coast.  Being able to move around the Sunshine Coast easily and conveniently as we grow is an important part of maintaining our way of life and promoting a sustainable future for the generations to come.

Council’s Corporate Plan and endorsed strategies provide a strong policy framework for the new planning scheme.

The new planning scheme will seek to integrate council’s endorsed Sunshine Coast Integrated Transport Strategy, which outlines the policy direction for transport in the region.  The Integrated Transport Strategy responds to the challenges and opportunities facing our region and outlines our vision to address the Sunshine Coast’s transport needs.

For further details, read the Sunshine Coast Integrated Transport Strategy and watch our Public Transport Infrastructure video.

Our new planning scheme will set the vision for the Sunshine Coast in 2041 and guide the way we grow and develop as a region. By planning well, we can protect the places we love and maintain the lifestyle we enjoy. Some of the key considerations in planning for our growing population as part of the New Planning Scheme Project are outlined below.

Icon Growth


  • using land more efficiently and protecting our rural and natural landscapes by ensuring that new development does not continually expand into these valuable areas
  • providing opportunities for urban renewal and revitalisation
  • providing more housing choice and affordable living to meet the varied and changing needs and lifestyle of our residents
  • ensuring the provision of infrastructure and utilities keep pace with growth
Icon Economy


  • promoting a strong economy that is diverse, resilient and globally oriented to support the current and future generations of the region
  • creating employment opportunities
  • ensuring sufficient land is available for employment generating activities
Icon Environment


  • protecting our native plants and animals and the habitats, waterways and wetlands that support them
  • preserving the capacity of the natural environment to function and provide critical ecosystem services such as clean air and water
  • responding and adapting to climate change
  • improving resilience to natural hazards including flood, bushfire, land slide and coastal hazard
Icon Community


  • maintaining a ‘community of communities’ that recognises the unique character and identity of the individual communities across the region
  • maintaining our lifestyle
  • encouraging development that works with the local climate and landscape
  • creating communities that are accessible and inclusive
  • creating great streets and public spaces
  • ensuring health, education, recreation and social services, are distributed across the region to support the needs of the community
  • protecting the cultural heritage and recognising the identity, values and aspirations of the Traditional Custodians as well as historic (post-contact) cultural heritage
Icon Connection


  • improving connectivity by providing improved transport options (private vehicle, public transport, walking and cycling networks) and ease of access to key locations in the region
  • integrating land use and infrastructure provision so that more people are more connected and have more access to the services they need
  • improving digital connectivity

For more information

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