• Last updated:
  • 01 May 2020

Building a healthy environment and sustainable region

This final post in our Intelligent Community series is about sustainability: Communities that make environmental sustainability a shared goal typically engage organisations, community groups and neighbourhoods in advocating for sustainability programs and activities. These contribute to civic pride, local identity and shared goals.


Sunshine Coast Council’s Environment and Liveability Strategy 2017 sets strategic directions to guide the actions of council and its partners to ensure a healthy environment and liveable Sunshine Coast to 2041. Its transformational actions aim to:

  • maintain and nurture our natural environment
  • respond to the challenge of population growth
  • build resilience against the potential impacts of climate change
  • create liveable spaces and places to live, work and play
  • drive renewable energy, efficiency and technical know-how
  • live up to the expectations of future generations.

This strategy seeks to strengthen the community’s resilience and deliver balanced economic, social and environmental outcomes that respect the principles of sustainability.

Community consultation

The community was invited to comment on the draft Environment and Liveability Strategy and its proposed strategic directions in May-June 2017. Approximately 3500 people connected with council through the consultation process to inform the final strategy.

During the consultation period, the two of the top five themes received from the community included:

  • Being sustainable: Integrating good sustainability practices into all we do to manage both present and future impacts and understanding the link between (and achieving) sustainability and affordability are important.
  • Community involvement: It is important to the community to be involved in future decisions, seeking to be engaged regularly by council on major issues as change occurs.

Transformational Actions

To activate and implement the policy positions, 26 Transformational Actions deliver an integrated and targeted approach through five strategic pathways that guide implementation. Key transformational actions include:

  • An involved community: A major engagement and marketing program to inspire and empower the community to value the environment and play their part in a liveable, sustainable and resilient future.
  • Being prepared: proactively planning for the potential impacts of climate change and natural hazards to build the resilience of the region.
  • Changing our ways: Transitioning the Sunshine Coast to a more sustainable, resilient and low carbon way of living.
  • Switch to a brighter future: Community organisations leading the way to a more sustainable Sunshine Coast through social infrastructure improvements.
  • Zero emissions organisation: Delivering a zero-net emissions organisation and transitioning to a renewable energy future.
  • Attracting sustainable industries/businesses: Strengthening our region’s sustainability vision by attracting and nurturing research and sustainable industries and businesses.

Launched in early 2020, the Environment and Liveability Strategy website makes it easy for the community to access and understand the strategy’s purpose and priorities – and most importantly, how these directly enhance our region.

Programs and initiatives

Living Smart Program

Living Smart aims to empower the community to adopt simple sustainable changes towards sustainable living by:

  • Sharing local good news stories/blogs on the website
  • Sharing useful resources/information
  • Developing campaigns to support targeted behaviour change
  • Supporting awards and recognition programs
  • Developing and partnering in community programs that inspire, connect and build capacity for our community to consider and adopt sustainable living behaviours – and think about things in new ways.

The program has engaged with more than 500,000 people since its inception - via website, online modules, events, program activations, awards, partnership activities and monthly e-news.

Originally developed as Living Smart Homes in 2007, the program was redeveloped in 2009 as Living Smart Homes, Solutions and Awards and as Living Smart in 2017. The program is currently being reviewed to ensure that we provide content and systems that are current and appeal to our target audiences in 2020.

Biosphere nomination

Council is leading a nomination for our region to be recognised by UNESCO as a biosphere which will help to protect and enhance the economy, lifestyle and environment for future generations.

Consultation with the community and key stakeholders to test the proposal to nominate for a UNESCO Biosphere was undertaken from March-June 2019, with key stakeholder engagement continuing through to August 2019.

In October 2019, council endorsed the 300-page nomination to be forwarded to the State Government, and pending State Government endorsement, forwarded to the Australian Government to assess the nomination and then submit it to UNESCO for consideration in September 2020. UNESCO will notify Sunshine Coast Council of the outcome of the nomination in June 2021.

Blue Heart Sunshine Coast

Blue Heart Sunshine Coast aims to protect and manage the most critical areas of the 5,000 hectares in the Maroochy River Catchment floodplain.

The land within the Blue Heart area is held for: rural and agricultural purposes; conservation; generation of renewable energy; water quality nutrient offsetting; vegetation offsetting and carbon sequestration; open space purposes.

Coastal hazard adaptation strategy

Our Resilient Coast. Our Future is a long-term strategy to help manage the impacts of coastal hazards such as beach erosion, and short or long-term seawater inundation (from sea level rise) of land along and adjacent to our coastline. This strategy is a key action in the Environment and Liveability Strategy to increase the resilience of our region from the impacts of climate change over time.

There has been extensive engagement across a range of key sectors, including youth, Traditional Owners, business, general community, research, coastal/environment, government/ disaster management/ social services, and utilities. The project has also established a Community Advisory Group – an 18 person reference group to guide the strategy’s development.

Land for Wildlife

Our region hosts the largest Land for Wildlife program in the country, having reached a milestone in 2019 with over 1100 landowners involved in this program. More than 8,800 hectares of privately-owned land – in addition to the 6,900 hectares in council’s conservation estate – are being managed with conservation objectives in mind.

Clean technologies

With one of the highest concentrations of clean technology businesses in Queensland, the Sunshine Coast has developed credentials in sustainability and clean technology innovation and is home to award-winning applications and research capabilities.

  • The Sunshine Coast has taken another leading position by unveiling Australia's first, high-tech, underground automated waste collection system to be installed in the new Maroochydore City Centre.
  • The University of the Sunshine Coast hosts the Sustainability Research Centre – providing access to contemporary research that supports the growth of the clean technologies industry.
  • Easy access to regional support including mentoring and programs from startup to life and scale globally through the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast, one of the country’s most awarded innovation centres which hosts and supports many startup cleantech businesses.

Solar Farm

Council developed the 15-megawatt utility scale solar farm at Valdora as part of its vision to be Australia's most sustainable region.

Council is the only government in Australia to offset 100% of its electricity consumption with energy from a renewable source.

Since opening in July 2017, there has been a substantial amount of interest from residents and businesses in addition to 12 schools, 5 universities and 40 Australian local governments and 7 state and federal government departments wanting to find out information about the project and/or requesting visits to the facility.

The Solar Farm website provides the public visibility into the operational performance and includes generation, weather and carbon savings data. 

Council has completed the concept design on a visitor information centre and has allocated funds to undertake the detailed design of the project.

Solar program expansion

The Sunshine Coast has one of the largest rooftop solar uptakes of any local government area in Australia, with 42% of dwellings choosing to harness the sun - 49,900 solar PV rooftops (equivalent to 183MW capacity).

In April 2019, the urban centre of Caloundra was named one of the top five rooftop solar postcodes in Australia.

Cleantech Industries Sunshine Coast

Cleantech Industries Sunshine Coast (CISC) is a membership based eco-business hub that connects eco-friendly businesses, government and community. CISC is now the only self-managed, self- funded cleantech industry group in Australia and the voice of Cleantech industries in the Sunshine Coast region.

Industry capabilities are in water management, environmentally sustainable building design and products, manufacturing and industrial processes, energy efficiency, and environmental consulting.

Regional events include:

More information

Read more about the region-wide programs and initiatives across the awards' Intelligent Community indicators:

  • Broadband: encouraging deployment and adoption, and deploying our own networks where necessary
  • Knowledge workforce: creating economic value through knowledge, skills and ability to use information effectively
  • Innovation: creating a culture that engages the entire community in positive change
  • Digital inclusion: providing access to digital technology and connectivity, and offering digital skills training
  • Engagement: building a common understanding of the challenges facing the community and a shared vision for overcoming them.

The Sunshine Coast was named a global Top7 Intelligent Community for the second successive year. The annual awards program recognises the accomplishments of communities in developing inclusive prosperity on a foundation of information and communications technology, based on six key indicators: Broadband, knowledge workforce, innovation, digital inclusion, engagement and sustainability. The 2020 Top7 Intelligent Communities are now in the running for the prestigious Intelligent Community of the Year, to be announced in October.