Wave of concern as Stockton's disappearing beach 'ignored'

CONCERN: Opposition spokeswoman for the environment Penny Sharpe (centre), with Port Stephen MP Kate Washington, Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp and concerned Stockton locals. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
CONCERN: Opposition spokeswoman for the environment Penny Sharpe (centre), with Port Stephen MP Kate Washington, Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp and concerned Stockton locals. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

FOR decades now Stockton beach has been fighting an enemy destined to win – erosion.

The volatile coastal strip is at crisis point, the beach rapidly disappearing as large swathes of coastline is lost to the sea.

With the peninsula shrinking by the day, fed-up residents urged authorities on Thursday to take “immediate action” to stop the encroaching perils of erosion.

They fear the next casualty of the environmental disaster, caused by Newcastle Harbour’s man-made breakwalls, could be Stockton Surf Life Saving Club.

Community advocate Simon Jones, who formed the group Save Stockton Beach, said residents were tired of “band-aid” solutions to the ongoing problem.

“We have all the answers from experts in this field, we just need the government to act on a long-term solution,” he said.

The NSW government was on Thursday accused of ignoring the erosion crisis that in the past few weeks forced the closure of a child-care centre and exposed an old landfill site that spewed garbage into the ocean.

ON THE EDGE: The Stockton Mission Australia Early Learning Centre at risk of falling into the sea. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

ON THE EDGE: The Stockton Mission Australia Early Learning Centre at risk of falling into the sea. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Standing on the coastline, Opposition spokeswoman for the environment Penny Sharpe described the environmental damage as stark.

“It’s time to stop the buck passing and actually do something to address the environmental disaster that is unfolding at Stockton,” she said.

“Something needs to be done before Stockton becomes an island. The minister can’t continue to ignore this.”

Massive seas last month, on top of years of constant sand loss, are wreaking havoc on the fragile coastal strip.

According to a 2014 Newcastle City Council-commissioned Coastal Zone Hazards Study, the harbour’s breakwalls have the effect of acting as a barrier, effectively trapping the sand from reaching the beach.

UNDER THREAT: Huge swell has stripped tonnes of sand from Stockton beach. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

UNDER THREAT: Huge swell has stripped tonnes of sand from Stockton beach. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

A spokeswoman for Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said $69 million in “new funding” was committed to the management of the NSW coastline in 2016, the largest injection since the 1970s.

She said the Coastal Panel chair, Professor Bruce Thom, would visit Stockton this month.

Meanwhile, Hunter Water will on Monday start digging up the former council landfill site exposed by erosion on Stockton beach. 

Rubbish will be removed to 10 metres behind the high-tide mark and temporary sand bags installed along the coastline.

The garbage will be stockpiled on site and covered with a geo-fabric until an appropriate waste disposal method is determined. Tests revealed the landfill contains asbestos, heavy metals and hydrocarbons.