Community calls for state solutions to erosion concerns; Newcastle City Council begins work on mitigation plans | PHOTOS

MITIGATION: Newcastle City Council have begun work to scrape sand between the Stockton Surf Life Saving CLub and the northern end of the Mitchell Street seawall. Picture: supplied.
MITIGATION: Newcastle City Council have begun work to scrape sand between the Stockton Surf Life Saving CLub and the northern end of the Mitchell Street seawall. Picture: supplied.

Newcastle City Council has begun work on resolving the issue of erosion at Stockton Beach, and announced that they would be replenishing sand to “help protect the beach and mitigate potential damage caused by future storm events”.

As well as the movement of sand in an effort to stem the tide of erosion, researchers from the University of Newcastle will also be in the area alongside council workers, taking samples to contribute to an ecological assessment of the region.

Most work will be undertaken between the Stockton Surf Lifesaving Club and the northern end of the Mitchell Street seawall, nearly a fortnight after council revealed at a community meeting that the state government’s Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) refused to certify the council’s Coastal Management Plan.

Council stated that their planned process was to undertake beach sand scraping north of the surf lifesaving club, and place the scraped sand in front of priority areas of the beach – areas close the endangered club, and the dune area in front of the Stockton monument.

The meeting’s organiser, Simon Jones, expressed concerns that the actions might not be a long-term solution, and could be a case of “robbing Peter to pay Paul”, but overall he said the community was pleased to see something was being done.

“The council is in a bit of a position where there’s no much more than this that they can do right now,” Mr Jones said. “It’s probably all they can do in the short term.”

“We do have our concerns about taking sand from one place on the beach and just putting it in another place, because it just feels a little like they’re moving the problem along instead of fixing it. I hope that they have thought of potential repercussions of doing that.”

Mr Jones understands that the council doesn’t have complete control over what they can do on the coastline however, and hopes that the NSW government takes notice to the erosion that has “arisen from a man-made problem”.

“Whatever the solution is will ultimately be incredibly expensive and it’s going to have to come from the state government,” he said. “We’ve only really got a band-aid solution so far. I do hope that we can get a bit of feedback from the state government about what reason they’re refusing to fund the solution for.”

“We understand that the state government has to look after the whole of the state coast, but the one thing that separates Stockton’s problem from the rest of them is that this is very much a man-made erosion problem – created by the Newcastle port – instead of just natural processes.”

Although the main concerns of the community are that current solutions are only “stop-gaps for the bigger issues”, Mr Jones also said that he was glad the council had made positive steps regardless.

“It’s been good to see council’s response after our meeting,” he said. “We have had a lot of support from council in the past few weeks now, and especially councillor John Mackenzie, so we are thankful for that.”

Council has also announced that they plan to repair the northern end of the Mitchell Street seawall, and reinstate pedestrian access, a plan that will begin after the first phase of the mitigation.

“Stockton's beachfront between the breakwall and Corroba Oval has undergone a number of investigations to determine how to alleviate coastal erosion,” a council spokesperson said. “Historically, Council has undertaken a number of works to address erosion at Stockton. The Mitchell St seawall and a sandbag seawall in front of the surf club were built in 1989 and 1996 respectively and both were repaired in 2010.”

“Council has identified preferred options for Stockton Beach in a Coastal Zone Management Plan, including beach nourishment, a seawall, an offshore breakwall, artificial headland and an artificial reef.”

The council spokesperson stated that costs, and lack of funding, have been a factor in their short and long-term plans.

“The costs of the long-term solutions are beyond the means of a local government and, at this stage, we have been unable to secure funding,” the spokesperson said. “We continue to work with OEH and researchers to find the best, most cost-effective solution.”

There will also be a second area to be scraped from Stone Street to Corroba Oval, dependent on availability of sand. The second batch of scraped sand will be made available for the repairs to the seawall, with aims to provide a beach access point close to the Stockton Child Care Centre.

Simon Jones spoke for the community in regards to the extension of the seawall, stating that Stockton has “rejected the idea of extending the seawall from the beginning”.

“A seawall doesn’t address the issue, and is essentially nothing more than an expensive bandaid,” Mr Jones said. “Sand nourishment, from an external source, would still be required if Stockton was to continue as a usable beach.”

“Any solution should focus on getting sand onto the beach. The community favours a sand bypass system, such as the Tweed River Bypass. WorleyParsons put the cost of such a system for Stockton at $4.5 million. A bypass would essentially do the same job as a seawall.”

These works will commence during November, and are expected to be completed prior to Christmas.

The ongoing battle against Stockton erosion