Author Victoria Purman.
Author Victoria Purman. Contributed

Is the seachange dream just a fantasy or can it be reality?

VICTORIA PURMAN, author of Nobody But Him, explores whether the seachange fantasy can be a reality.

"There's no doubt about it, Australians love the beach. We flock there like seagulls onto a hot chip during summer holidays for the sun, the surf, the clean and safe water and the fun.

"Tourism Australia boasts that this country offers some of the most beautiful, safe and high quality beach holiday experiences in the world.

"It reports that while Australians still hop on planes for the beaches of Bali, Thailand and Fiji, growing numbers of Aussies are staying home for their beach experiences.

"And those beach holidays are becoming more than a vacation. Increasingly, people are choosing our coastal towns for a sea change lifestyle for their families. It's been called a "Culture of the coast" by demographer Bernard Salt.

"It's predicted that coastal population growth along the eastern seaboard alone will increase by 94% - or more than six million people over the next 40 years.

"In the decade to 2009, almost two million people moved to the coast.

"This population shift is leading people to ask just what will this do to the places we love just as they are?

"Where will the jobs come from to employ all those people seeking a lifestyle shift? These issues have been tackled by government taskforces, demographers and committees over the years, including the National Sea Change Taskforce, which was established in 2004.

"Local authorities continually stress the affect this population shift has on infrastructure, the local environment and often-strained local services like hospitals and schools.

"Does the desire to escape from the overdeveloped cities just create more pressure for development in these regional towns? That's the question I've tackled in my book, Nobody But Him.

"My character Julia Jones returns to her South Australian beachside home town after 15 years away in Melbourne, and is shocked at how it's changed during her absence.

"In her mind, it's remained the sleepy town with one pub. But when she returns, she barely recognises it. Old beach shacks have been knocked down and replaced with million-dollar beach homes, and fancy boutiques are pushing out the op-shops she knew.

"When Julia finds out that her first love, Ryan Blackburn, is investing in the town and is the man behind a new housing development, she accuses him of ruining the place she loves.

"But he fights back, arguing that without investment, the town will die. The way my two characters resolve this philosophical debate ultimately influences their own happy ever after ending, how they work out their differences determines their future."

Nobody But Him, by Victoria Purman is available at bookshops. (Published by Harlequin MIRA), $29.99.

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