Sea level rise risks "extreme" at beaches between Hawks Nest and Nine Mile, according to MidCoast council report

EROSION FEARS: The southern end of Bennetts Beach, otherwise known as Hawks Nest Beach, facing south to Yacaaba and Tomaree headlands, with Port Stephens just behind the dunes. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
EROSION FEARS: The southern end of Bennetts Beach, otherwise known as Hawks Nest Beach, facing south to Yacaaba and Tomaree headlands, with Port Stephens just behind the dunes. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

ALL of the beaches between Hawks Nest to Nine Mile Beach north of Forster are at “extreme or high risk” from rising sea levels, according to a report by oceanic consultants BMT WBM.

The report was published on December 29 in the State Government Gazette.

Compiled for the former Great Lakes Council – now part of an amalgamated MidCoast Council – the report builds on earlier work done for the council to manage some 150 kilometres of coastal assets, including some 20 ocean beaches from Hawks Nest through to Seal Rocks and onto Blueys, Boomerang and the Forster-Tuncurry stretch of coast.

“[All of these beaches] were found to be at extreme or high risk from coastal hazards, at present or future,” the report said.

The report noted that most of the risk was long-term, and that the risk would increase as time went on.

The CSIRO has forecast a likely sea level rise of between 45cms to 88cms by the end of the century.

The report found that in the present day, at least 11 residential properties were at risk from erosion. The figure would double to 22 properties by 2060 and climb to 68 by the end of the century. 

“Many of the properties at highest risk are also those with the highest property values,” the report concluded. 

Southern Boomerang, Blueys, Forster and One Mile were among the beaches where private properties were deemed to be at risk, the report suggesting that buy-backs could be explored in some circumstances. 

“In the future, ‘trigger points’ may be set as part of conditions of consent for developments on private land,” the report said. 

Infrastructure behind beaches was also likely to be in jeopardy, including roads, beach access tracks, car parks, nature reserves, habitat, stormwater outlets, sewer and water services. 

The council could opt to accept the loss of land and retreat, moving assets away from the shore, or protect the assets using beach nourishment, seawalls and other structures. 

“These actions can be extremely costly, and use of hard structures like seawalls can reduce the width and amenity of the beach,” the report said. 

“Further discussion with the community (both foreshore residents and the wider population) is needed before an appropriate approach can be decided.” 

The ‘retreat’ option involved the relocation of infrastructure like roads, or creating structures that could moved in the event of a storm, such as lifeguard towers. 

The report found the surf clubs at One Mile, Bennetts and Forster beaches could all be at risk by 2100 without further action.

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