North Queensland sport: grounds for concern from sea level rise


Climate change is warming the oceans as well as the atmosphere. Average sea levels rose around 200mm last century, and sea level rise is accelerating.

OzCoasts has published maps showing impacts for our coastal areas from rises in average sea level for scenarios of 50cm, 80cm and 1.1 metres. These maps include the effects of high tides but exclude possible storm surges. We may see even worse increases if global warming continues without effective climate action.

Unfortunately, so far OzCoasts’ maps stop down in Redcliffe so far as Queensland is concerned. And the Queensland Government is backing away from supporting local communities with information on coastal flooding.

Sports grounds can provide early warnings for sea level rise impacts because so many of them are located in low lying areas.

Expert information is needed in particular on risks to grounds which at first sight may seem relatively safe because they are a few metres above current average sea levels, but which are adjacent to  rivers and near the coast, and so may be exposed to increased flood risks from tides and from floodwaters being less able to escape to sea with higher high tides.

Until OzCoasts gets the funding and direction it needs to extend its work, here are some grounds in North Queensland which seem to indicate grounds for concern

  • Bundaberg Rum Stadium (3 metres above sea level)
  • Cairns North grounds
  • Cairns Watson Park
  • Cairns Endeavour Park with its 6 pitches as well as football fields
  • The pitch at Trinity Bay High School
  • Both grounds at Cairns Griffiths Park
  • The ground at Cairns North adjacent to the Tobruk Memorial Pool

All these grounds appear to be at, or just over, 3 metres above current average sea level. Councils in other parts of Australia have adopted 3 metres freeboard as the test for whether a location will remain reasonably free of flooding by tides and storm surges. So these grounds have little room to spare for sea level rise.

There are also grounds which are a little higher (around 5 metres) above current average sea level but are adjacent to tidal rivers which would be affected by sea level rise. This category includes the ground at Port Douglas and Innisfail’s main oval.

Comments and any updates or corrections from people with more local knowledge please!

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