Beach sand erosion is putting homes and infrastructure at real risk of falling into the sea at many locations on NSW coast.
My letter to the Deputy Premier on the 20.06.2020
I do want to thank you for your interest in the Stockton sand/beach erosion and I think it is vital that a long term solution be found to protect both private and public assets along this coastal strip of land. The history of this area is that shifting sands is the expectancy that we must account for and to continually replenish the sand that drifts northward we will find it become increasingly expensive over time. In 1858 there were concerns then because the sands were causing difficulties in the Harbour channel and so a breakwater was put into the planning and eventually constructed. As seen below:
The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893) Sat 17 Apr 1858
NEW NOTICES OF MOTION.
“In: Supplement to the Maitland Mercury
Top of Form
NEW NOTICES OF MOTION.
Mr. SCOTT to move- 1. That a select committee be appointed to inquire into, and report upon, the best means of improving the alluvial lands of the Hunter, by a system of drainage, and the legal provisions under which such a system may be carried out. 2. That the sub committee consist of Mr. Hay, Mr, Flood, Mr. Arnold, Mr. Jones, Mr. Piddington, Mr. Robertson, Mr. White, Mr. Wecket, Mr. Gordon, and the mover.
Mr. SCOTT to move-That there be laid upon the table of this house, the report, plans, and estimates, furnished by Mr. Moriarty, civil engineer, respecting the advisableness of constructing a small and inexpensive breakwater, to run seawards from the south end of Stockton, in order to secure the entrance of the Harbour of Newcastle from all obstructions, by preventing the continual shifting of the sand at this particular point, and by stopping the heavy drift of the same from the Long Beach, caused by the prevalent north-easterly winds, both tending to the formation of shoals and the narrowing of the channel.”
(The spelling was as in the publication at the time 1858)
The building of the break wall did its job of protecting the harbour entrance and to enable the deepening of the harbour as was latter required to enable larger vessels to enter the harbour. However, the break wall has the effect of a suction as sea water in a storm ebbs and flows during the strong seas. This motion does remove the sand at an increased rate, as I understand.
The history of the area demonstrates that there were “squatters” tin buildings established in the area as well as a sizable rubbish tip, which became uncovered in 2018 exposing all manner of discarded refuse. There were many manufacturing and residential dwelling as well as shops of various nature. The area has an unstable nature about it, however once we permitted development and charge council rates, we have a responsibility of protecting the area as much as possible. While an undisclosed amount of funds is planned to be spent on replenishing the sand on the eroded beach area, this will again disappear as further storms come and go. A long-term plan must be put into place so that we do not have to revisit this on a regular ongoing basis.
The extent of the current erosion demonstrates that we are quite a number of storms too late to do a real and proper maintenance program. Even if you go ahead with the suggested plan of replenishment it will only be a part restoration and very temporary at the best. The Surfers want an open beach and with that comes the erosion. Those with assets want to stop the erosion with that comes a protected beach. The campers want a beach to play on with their children and a protected beach would be fine with them. So as long as a long term plan is being looked for, one only hopes that there is one being looked at, consideration must be made how to calm the seas in this area. To me there seems to be two ways to calm the seas and they are an exposed break wall or an unexposed break wall.
An unexposed break wall is a significant reef that is substantial enough to stop the ferocious wave during the regular storms that we encounter in this area; as we have done so since at least the 1850’s that caused the current existing break water to be built to protect the entrance to Newcastle Harbour. Sinking of a few ships will not be substantial enough, in my view, though with some there, they may assist with a rock and or concrete break wall behind it. If an exposed break wall is chosen then a safe beach and a small boat harbour could be established as well, this could be welcomed by many of the residents of Stockton.
However to find out the plan most wanted a survey of the residents ought to be taken with many options on the table and the long term cost estimates ought to be there before the people and how it is planned to continue to pay for the cost over the many years in the future.
For those who wish to believe that the ocean levels will rise then this will be mostly covered in a few decades, however I hasten to add that the markers in the Sydney Harbour do not indicate any significant ocean rise in over 150 years – I also not that at Port Arthur there is also no evidence of ocean levels rising during the same time frame. So, the ocean levels rising may not need to be an urgent consideration, as I see it.
The surfers have a number of beaches in the Newcastle area that are not suffering from beach sand erosion and so they can go to these other places if they want to surf as I see it.
I further note that the subject of how the current restoration plan it to be funded is not currently public information. Perhaps it is too early to tell where the money is coming from, though this ought to be on the table for all to see. I ask you to be sure that this is not a band-aide thing that can create uncertainty to the ongoing security of the private and public assets in the Stockton area.
Yours in Good Faith
My letter to the Newcastle Herald on the 16.07.2020:
We have been told sand replacement is the best way to restore the storm eroded beach at Stockton and in today’s paper we read about Jimmy’s Beach erosion. Jimmy’s Beach has a $4.1M sand transfer system in place and the problem is there is no operator to make the system work. The Mid-Coast Council has the responsibility to get the operator and it will cost money – the questions are who pays? And how much will it cost? Whatever the answers are there will be ongoing costs as the council fights the forces of the sea whipped up by cyclical storms. There is no end to the costs.
There are other ways to protect infrastructure on such vulnerable stretches of land and that is by the use of constructed sea walls, or breakwaters; though, these structures may cause other unintended outcomes. I am not an expert in wave movement but I do know what I see and an attempt to hold back the sea from approved infrastructure by sand replacement is fraught with a huge ongoing price tag that the community over time will regret being committed to.
Mid-Coast has had $4.1M spent on the sand replacement strategy but are unable to secure an operator at this stage. As Ms Garrard, a local, indicates ‘a permanent solution must be found as the sand replacement to be eroded next storm as it is a waste of a lot of money’.
To approve development on a parcel of land a council is, in my view, accepting responsibility to defend the land from natural events including erosion via storms.
A better long term solution must include the calming of the seas as they approach the beach areas of both Stockton and Jimmy’s Beach
Yours in Good Faith
My letter to the Australian 20.07.2020:
There are many places where the sand is eroding from the beaches along the coast of NSW and other places and we have governments that have done little to fix the problem long term and mostly short term fixes are put in place; that is sand replacement programs. It does not matter whether it be Wamberal, Jimmy’s Beach, Stockton or any other place the situation is both the State Government and the local councils have permitted the building in these places and as such must do something to protect he areas. This is not anything to do with ocean levels rising but just the normal storms that happen along the coast. We have many wild storms and that is why ships have floundered off our coast. Many love the wild seas for their surfing activities BUT wild seas will mean erosion of soft material and sand is that soft material. Rocks will also erode but they take a lot longer to erode and significant amount.
The desire to live close to the sea has brought both housing and Government infrastructure close to a potential threat of falling into the sea. The only long term successful way of slowing down the erosion is to calm the seas. Many place around the world have used many methods to put in place barricades so that the sea close to the housing and infrastructure is calmed before reaching shore. This must be the plan of the government to protect the properties that they have so willingly permitted building upon and have collected their due charges for the approval processes required. It is now time to protect the properties by barricades that calm the seas. Enough is enough!!
Yours in Good Faith
The real solution
Solving a soil erosion problem is simple and restrictive in regard to the use of the area; whether we like it or not!
I come from the hill country in the Darling Range in Western Australia and as such soil erosion was something we had to deal with or see the top soil washed away. This meant farming practices had to be different depending the steepness of the grade of the paddocks. While ocean current erosion id very different there is a lot of the sameness about it; essentially the area subjected to possible erosion has to be protected and used differently or the erosion will continue.
Why does the erosion happen? The erosion is caused by the northerly moving heavy ocean currents especially during the many storms that frequent the area. The soil in the area is mostly sand with little resistance to heavy seas.
Solving the problem: The soil is difficult to change to a more wave resistant nature and so the only real solution is to calm the seas in that area. Seas are calmed by placing obstructions near the shore line but sufficiently far out to sea so as to break up the destructive nature of the wave movement as it approaches the shore area. This can be obtained by either an artificial reef that is not exposed above the sea level or and exposed one that is above the sea level. While both can be expensive one installed the are should have a very long period where there will be no further expenditure. It will mean a usage change; and that will include that surfing will not be able to continue in that area. This trade off will cause some changes to some aspects of retail trade yet as there are other areas near these areas of concern, namely Stockton and Jimmy’s Beach, this should not be an estopel to this proposed solution. As it is a single fix it will also be the cheapest over time as the only other option is a continual sand replacement after every major storm.