Action demanded on Shoal Bay coastal erosion threats

Coastal erosion at work on Shoal Bay beach. Photo: Marian Sampson.

ENVIRONMENTAL groups are urging immediate remediation action at Shoal Bay Road, Shoal Bay in response to worsening coastal erosion.

“EcoNetwork Port Stephens and the National Parks Association Port Stephens group are urgently calling for Council action to stabilise the section of coast most threatened at the pinch at Shoal Bay Road,” Sue Olsen of EcoNetwork told News Of The Area.

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“We are calling on Council to urgently protect the dune and the threat to the bush walkway nearest to the erosion.”

Port Stephens Council’s Coastal Management Program (CMP) acknowledges the ongoing erosion risk at this location and the need for a permanent solution.

“We see it as critical to retain as much of the existing dune and bush walkway as possible, now,” said Ms Olsen.

“If the coastline is left to take its natural course of erosion, first the remaining coastal bush and the bush walking trail is lost, then Shoal Bay Road is threatened, and eventually the nearest houses, which will then require more extensive coastal stabilisation with loss of amenity in the interim.

“It is therefore prudent to stabilise this most threatened coastal section now.”

The construction of a one or two-way road behind Harbourside Haven has been suggested as an alternative to shoreline stabilisation, however EcoNetwork does not support this option.

“Building a new road would be extremely costly, probably more than the cost of dune stabilisation,” Ms Olsen said.

“It would also require the acquisition and demolition of several adjoining residences, as well as special legislation to revoke part of Tomaree National Park.

“Such a road would likely have severe impacts on the wetlands, part of our drinking water supply, as well as the associated biodiversity of the wetlands and its bushland.

“Additionally, there would be massive social impacts, compromising residences both at Harbourside Haven and more drastically those nearest to Government Road.

“Plus the coastal dune would still need to be stabilised.”

Ms Olsen and EcoNetwork are calling on Council to enact “more environmentally sensitive, socially and recreationally desirable and probably lower cost options”.

Landcare stalwart Margaret Wilkinson is another community member concerned about the erosion on the Port Stephens Foreshore.

“It is critical for some serious investment to go towards reinforcing that corner,” she told News Of The Area.

“Council should also have a plan B and it could in my opinion be solved by alternate access (even one way) behind Harbourside Haven.”

Ms Wilsinson expressed concern that Council’s development of a Coastal Management Program has slowed immediate action on urgent issues.

“The Coastal Management Plan has, in my opinion, held just about everything up,” she said.

“At Conroy we’ve had a Sandy Point Management Plan for many years and it has now been subsumed by the Coastal Management Plan.

“The only work done from those recommendations was the sand nourishment project in late 2020.

“Bare sand was transferred from one end of the beach to the other with absolutely no protection.

“Despite our Landcare group planting out with pigface and hessian logs, all that sand has now gone and the bank remains completely bare at Conroy Park.

“Over the years the Council dumped sandbags and never finished the job of fully protecting the public reserve.

“Where the sandbags end is where the erosion is worst – they need to be extended, urgently!”

Port Stephens Deputy Mayor Leah Anderson told News Of The Area that Shoal Bay Road is Council’s “top priority for intervention under the proposed Coastal Management Plan”.

Brock Lamont, Port Stephens Council’s Strategy and Environment Section Manager, said the CMP identifies actions to address coastal hazard risks and maintain the ecological, social and economic values of the Port Stephens coastal zone.

“As a critical part of the program, a Port Stephens Coastal Zone Emergency Action Subplan (CEAS) has been prepared which details triggers for emergency response actions at locations at risk and sets out short-term actions and responsibilities for works to protect areas impacted by storm and erosion events, including the Shoal Bay Road,” Mr Lamont said.

“The draft Coastal Management Program proposes to undertake a number of activities in the Shoal Bay Area including: Coast Snap shoreline monitoring, sand carting /beach nourishment to provide improved beach access and amenity, dune rehabilitation works and preparation of a climate change adaptation plan.”

Mr Lamont told NOTA the CMP proposes to undertake a detailed study and investigation of the coastal erosion risk near Shoal Bay Road and evaluate feasible coastal protection options.

“The study would provide Council with an understanding of the level of risk to this key access road,” he said.

“Additional investigations, designs and costings will occur for new coastal protection works at Sandy Point/Conroy Park in years 6-7 of the plan.

“Conroy Park has been identified for sand carting and beach nourishment works which would provide improved beach access, amenity and short-term coastal protection.”

The draft Coastal Management Program was on public exhibition from 28 February to 28 March 2024.

The Coastal Management Program is currently being finalised in response to submissions received during public exhibition and will be presented to Council for endorsement on 25 June 2024.


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