After the Wave: a wake up warning for Australian coastal locations

Associate Professor David King, Yetta Gurtner

Peer-reviewed Article



Archived Article


In common with much of Asia, most Australians live close to the sea, with a significant portion living in the immediate coastal hazard zone. In Queensland for example 87 percent of the population, over 2.8 million people, live in census collection districts within 30 kilometres of the coast. Of these people, over 400 000 are within one kilometre of the sea (ABS CData2001). It was the one kilometre coastal zone adjacent to the Indian Ocean that bore the impact of the tsunami of the 26th December 2004. The coasts of Asia are as variable as those of Australia, but in all places there is a greater concentration of population, settlements and infrastructure on the flattest and lowest land. This paper looks at the Phuket experience of the tsunami to draw some initial observations and lessons that should influence hazard mitigation in Australia and more generally, in coastal hazardous locations elsewhere in the region. There are four significant sets of issues that will be presented. 1. Critical infrastructure and lifelines in relation to response and recovery. 2. Land use and coastal built structures. 3. Tourists and the tourism industry. 4. Hazard education.