Noosa census graph
Noosa census graph Alan Lander

Americans achieve Sunshine Beach-head

THE Noosa hinterland has grown in population by nearly 20% between 2006 and 2016, according to census figures.

But Tewantin has only grown by 3.5% in the same period.

And the next-lowest growth was at Sunshine Beach.

Figures also identify a small enclave of former US citizens emerging in Sunshine Beach.

The census figures show the population rise in the hinterland, covering all the shire's country towns and centres, has risen by 3544 or 19.4%, from 18,308 now up to 21,852.

The next-highest growth in the shire was in Peregian-Marcus Beach, with a 18.7% or 593-person increase from 3168 to 3761.

Noosaville came next with an extra 997 people, or a 12.9% increase from 7738 to 8735. Noosa Heads was not far behind, increasing 12.4% or 494 from 3990 to 4484.

Sunshine Beach welcomed a mere 465 into its fold, a 7.7% increase from 6069 to 6534, whereas Tewantin's increase, from 9955 to 10,308, was 353. Percentages can be misleading however, as Tewantin already had a larger population than other shire metropolitan areas.

The average population age increased further in Sunshine Beach, compared to other shire regions, increasing from 2006 to 2016 from 38 years to 44, though its percentage of females dropped slightly from 51.4% to 51.1%.

All areas saw an increase in average age, with Noosa Heads up from 49 to 52 years, and Noosaville jumping higher from 45 years to 53.

Female population ratios changed slightly in Noosa Heads, from 50.2% to 50.7%, with a larger increase at Noosaville (51.6% to 52.5%).

Tewantin kept a more youthful profile, perhaps reflected in more younger families settling there, with an average age increase from 44 to 49.

It also had a higher female ratio, up from 52.3% to 52.9%.

The average age in the Peregian-Marcus Beach area has risen from 42 to 45 years, and the female proportion has barely moved, from 50.5% to 50.6%. In the hinterland, the average age has shifted upward from 42 to 47 years, with a slight increase in female share of the population, from 50.1% to 50.4%.

Sunshine Beach, however, remains by far the most youthful of all Noosa shire areas, with an average age of 44, though still an increase since 2006 from age 38.

The median age in Australia is 38.

Noosa Heads has the lowest Australian-born component of at 65.3%, with Noosaville at 66.2%.

But the local component is a little higher in Tewantin (72.1%), the hinterland (74.7%) and Peregian-Marcus (74.9%).

Migrants from the UK make up the second-highest population component at around 9-10%, New Zealanders average around 5%, and Germans and South Africans fight for the minor placings, averaging 1-2% apiece.

US migrants have managed to form a beach-head landing for the very first time, however, with a total of 1% in the Sunshine Beach area.

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'Master of the universe' in Sunshine Beach

PTOR Gjestland is a one-percenter.

He's one of the US-born Australians picked up in the 2016 Census figures representing 1% of the Sunshine Beach population.

But his Aussie credentials - and his even more-pronounced Noosa associations - ensure he's more "here” than "there”.

Born in San Francisco, Mr Gjestland left at 16 to study in New York, became a trader for investment bank Morgan Stanley and worked in Japan and Singapore, as well as Wall Street.

He made a killing following the NASDAQ crash and no longer had to work.

A holiday in Noosa in the late nineties changed his life, however.

"I came here on holiday while working in Tokyo, bought a Sunshine Beach property three days later, then bought land site-unseen,” Mr Gjestland said.

"It was in '97 or '98, and it was the highest paid price for non-beach land at the time.

"People thought there was a new land boom going on.”

Some American colleagues also bought, resulting in real estate outfit Century 21 sending people to Hong Kong and Tokyo.

"I quit working in 2000, built a house, went surfing, stayed a bit longer, then met Danielle.”

They married, and Danielle Gjestland now operates the hugely successful Wasabi Japanese restaurant.

Mr Gjestland has since stated a hedge fund, dealing with many of his old Morgan Stanley clients.

He reckons there's strong interest from the US, given the Aussie dollar's placement in the US74 - 77 cent range.

And the Sunshine Beach property market is "exploding”.

"There's now a whole renaissance,” he said.

"There's so much building going on; it's good for the town.”

A few more expat US citizens are appearing, he said.

"A few have joined the tennis club,” Mr Gjestland said.

"Most have been working in Sydney. One of the guys does parts for Boeing, works in Asia but lives two out of three weeks here.

"It's a lot cheaper renting in Noosa than an apartment in Hong Kong.”

Mr Gjestland has lived longer in Sunshine Beach than he has in the US, what with all the overseas postings.

"I've still got the accent - but I call a sweater a jumper now,” he said.

"And I think in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit.”

He said many southern Californian beaches were now polluted, and Americans were spending more time in Costa Rica than stateside.

He was also a major figure in the Free Noosa campaign of 2013.

"There was only a small group of us - 10 to 15 really -who kept it going.

"Standing in front of the IGA handing out flyers and bumper stickers, a lot of people saying you can't fight the government - but we did.”