Rising Tide

The Monthly

October 2019

Dealing with sea-level rise when private property is at stake


Around 10 years ago, upon retirement, Dr Brett Stevenson started spending less time in Sydney and more in a house he owned in a town 200 kilometres south – the beginnings of the classic Australian sea change.

The region he came to is called the Shoalhaven, the kind of place where if someone says they live a stone’s throw from the coast they’re probably not exaggerating. Nearly every town there starts adjacent to a beach or clings to the edge of an estuary – evidence of the Australian ethos that the closer we live to the coast, the better.

Stevenson wanted to contribute to his new community, so he volunteered to sit on some of the local council’s natural resources and coastal management committees. He’d spent more than a decade working in policy for the New South Wales department of the environment, and before that with the state’s Environmental Protection…