STOCKTON is reeling after storms, massive seas and high tides have continued to erode the beach.
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The iconic Lexies Café is closed until further notice, the City of Newcastle was forced to maintain the closure of the building at Stockton Beach currently leased to Lexie’s Café following advice from coastal engineers.
The independent report following further severe erosion in recent weeks states that the building is within a hazardous zone of wave impact and is at immediate risk of significant damage or failure in a one-in-two-year storm event.
City of Newcastle Infrastructure and Property Director Ken Liddell said the decision was made because of the unacceptable risk posed to public safety.
“According to the coastal engineers’ advice, the erosion impact on the building has created an imminent risk to public safety and, as a result, the building cannot be occupied,” Liddell said.
“We understand the direct impact this will have for the operators of the Café, staff and its patrons as Lexie’s is a much-loved and valuable part of the community.
“The erosion of Stockton Beach has been recognised as a natural disaster and the City must keep public safety a priority as the ongoing issues are managed and we work with the NSW Government on sustainable long-term solutions,” he said.
Due to the same severe erosion event, City of Newcastle relocated all ocean-edge cabins to the adjacent reserve behind Stockton Swimming Pool to save the assets from falling into the ocean.
Lexie’s Cafe, which was already operating on a month-to-month lease, was indefinitely closed a week ago after a review found that, based on the current erosion scarp location, the building was now within the zone of wave impact, and therefore at risk, in a one-in-two year storm event.
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said a meeting on Monday between the leasee and City of Newcastle was positive with both parties agreeing to work together on a solution for re-opening Lexie’s Café.
“While we would have loved for the Lexie’s Café to continue trading at Stockton Beach as it has for many years, once City of Newcastle officers were presented with the Coastal Risk Assessment Review, the responsible action was to act immediately,” Cr Nelmes said.
“City of Newcastle is exploring all available options to secure insurance for the building.
While that process is underway, I’ve asked for the construction of a temporary café to the east of the Stockton Ferry Terminal, away from the erosion threat, as an interim measure.
“There are many hoops we need to get through, but we have made it clear to Lexie’s management that we want to work together towards a solution for Lexie’s that will protect local jobs and safeguard the local economy.
“We know that Lexie’s attracts many visitors and tourists to Stockton, just as the nearby Stockton Holiday Park does.”
Lexie’s Café owner Nick Sovechles said today’s meeting had been a positive step forward in re- establishing the much-loved café.
“While reopening Lexie’s remains our preferred option, we understand that the issue of securing insurance for the building must first be resolved. In the meantime, we will work with City of Newcastle on options including a temporary café beside the Stockton Ferry Wharf,” he said.
“What is clear is that the Stockton community cannot take many more financial hits.
“It needs commercial ventures that attract people to Stockton, and a café near the very popular Children’s Active Play Hub is one way of doing that.
“What is equally clear is that we need the State Government to support City of Newcastle in its development of a Coastal Management Program so that come 30 June, our community has a long- term solution to the erosion of Stockton Beach.”
“High winds occur in the area during east coast low storm events, which typically happen in the March-April period that is rapidly approaching,” Liddell said.
Stockton residents have come together to seek urgent redress to the situation with hundreds attending a demonstration over the weekend dressed in red to highlight the erosion at the beach.
By Marian SAMPSON