East Coast Low anniversary marked by lack of action

It is 12 months to the day that people living along Wamberal Beach could see for the first time the damage caused by a series of East Coast Low storm systems that directed damaging waves from a North Easterly direction causing extensive coastal erosion to the more southerly end of Wamberal Beach.
But what has happened since these damaging seas caused the loss of the dune system along Wamberal Beach leaving private homes and public infrastructure highly exposed to any future storm events?
The answer is little or nothing.
In fact, despite the efforts of individual property owners to protect their homes at their cost, the government has done everything possible to prevent either permanent or temporary coastal protection works from being installed.
In the first case, owners of homes on Wamberal Beach who attempted to install temporary protection, as allowed under the Coastal Protection Act, were threatened by the Central Coast Council with the forced removal of those works based on claims that they were illegal.
However, following the same storm, protection works of exactly the same design were installed at Pearl Beach and Macmasters Beach with the apparent approval and oversight of the Central Coast Council.
This is because the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) for Gosford Beaches had not been certified by the Minister for Planning, Mr Rob Stokes, and the decision to approve any permanent or interim protection works was the responsibility of the NSW Coastal Panel.
Twelve months later, the Coastal Panel continues to use its authority, and the courts, to block any attempt by owners of homes threatened by future storm events to install coastal protection works.
With the Gosford Beaches CZMP recently certified by the NSW State Government almost 12 months after the damaging storm event in June 2016, there is still no apparent enthusiasm by the Central Coast Council to actually commence the process of planning and constructing the much needed revetment for Wamberal Beach.
The only noise we hear is that there is yet another cost benefit analysis to be developed and that beach nourishment needs to be considered to replace sand that will be lost due to the construction of the proposed wall.
The fact is that despite the ad hoc protection works that have been in place since 1978, there has been no need to replenish sand on Wamberal Beach despite the many significant coastal erosion events that have occurred over the last 40 years.
At Terrigal Beach, where there is a publicly funded revetment, Council has always hosed down any concerns when the beach has been damaged by coastal erosion saying that the sand will return naturally over time.
The sand has always returned naturally for both Terrigal and Wamberal Beach, but today, the Council raises beach nourishment as an issue for the future installation of an engineered sea wall that will very rarely be exposed to the full wave run-up and damaging coastal erosion of a full blown East Coast Low.
The lack of transparency on this issue that has so often been demonstrated by the Central Coast Council is however no surprise.
The Council continues to refuse full public access to a report commissioned immediately after the storm event in June 2016, and has repeatedly refused to remove a historic dumping of asbestos cement roofing material from Wamberal Beach.
This hazardous material continues to lay in an exposed state on public land, despite assurances to the NSW Environmental Protection Authority that it would be removed.
More recently, the NSW Information and Privacy Commission has recommended that Council review its decision to maintain its censorship of a report that refers to the urgent need to remove “environmentally inappropriate material” from a public beach.
The response by government to the issue of Wamberal Beach is a public disgrace, but because this is the Central Coast anything goes.
On the doorstep of Sydney but no more than a door mat.

Email, Jun 5
Patrick Aiken, Coastal Residents Incorporated

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