Wamberal seawall debate continues

Some of the rock bags which have been placed at Wamberal Beach as a temporary solution to ongoing erosion

As debate continues over a permanent solution to ongoing erosion issues at Wamberal Beach, the Wamberal Protection Association (WPA) has defended the option of a seawall, saying much “misinformation and fear-mongering” is circulating in the community.

Spokesperson Margaret Brice said the group comprised residents directly affected by the storms in June 2020 and had worked closely with the State Government and Task Force leader Phil Watson to achieve a long-term revetment solution.

“We are also encouraged that Central Coast Council has continued to support this initiative (with thorough community consultation) even in times of their current problems,” she said.

“In an effort to allay concerns and give more comfort and context to all stakeholders, we have put together seven facts to address what we see as the key areas of misinformation.

“As residents, we are of course not experts, but have drawn on those that are to assist us in articulating these answers.

“Any beach, no matter how stable, will be heavily impacted by short term erosion from time to time during severe storm events like that experienced last year and in 2016 but they also recover naturally back to where they were,” the fact sheet says.

“For example, few people realize that both Manly and Bondi are backed by protection structures integrated with walkways/promenades and adjoining roads.

“There are many more throughout Australia that stabilise the sand and protect the beach and property, without significant loss of beach.”

While the group acknowledges certain forms of protection in the far north coast of NSW, Stockton and other locations around Australia and overseas have had adverse environmental impacts, it says those impacts are due to localised factors, which are different to those at Wamberal.

The group is passionate and committed to maintaining the beach, protecting the sand and ensuring broader community access.

“We are also mindful that the protection proposed for Wamberal is only part of the solution with beach nourishment often being an integral part of what is being proposed,” the fact sheet says.

It says while beachfront homes are “in the front line” and residents are keen to have a solution, Wamberal Surf Club and other public amenities are also at risk, as are homes further from the beach.

“In the 2020 storms the sea came within 10 meters of Ocean View Dr, and in 2016 the Clan Motel and Terrigal Lagoon bridge were flooded,” it says.

“The threat to the suburb is real and ongoing.”

The group claims the option of planned retreat is not legally valid, with associated costs amounting to many times that of the protection and sand nourishment option and reiterates that all beachfront developments along Wamberal are validly approved and all redevelopments or new building stock must accord with relevant Local Environmental Plan (LEP) and Development Control Plan (DCP) provisions.

Successive councils have rejected a ‘planned retreat’ option which the group says would cost in excess of $500M plus legal costs with the cost of constructing engineer-designed works and sand nourishment around $20M.

The group says a semi buried rock structure which has been in place since June 2020 has not detrimentally affected the sand or beach in any way and that the beach had restored itself within four months of the severe storm event.

But the Wamberal Beach Save our Sand (SOS) group maintains the wider community of the Wamberal area opposes a seawall, while acknowledging the erosion issue is a sensitive topic with diverse views held.

“Wamberal Beach SOS has been left out of discussions despite representing over 3,500 community members whilst beachfront property owners have been in ongoing discussions with State Government Task Force chair Phil Watson and Central Coast Council representatives,” spokesperson Jason Hickey said.

“The community consultation from Council has been non-existent for our group.

“Supportive or not of the seawall, all other options should be studied in depth to ensure the best solution is found.””

Hickey said the group was yet to receive any documentation and reports from studies and consultation done to determine a seawall as the sole solution.

He said questions put to Council in regard to the formulation of its Coastal Management Plan on March 18 were yet to be answered.

Hickey said the group did not vehemently support planned retreat but believed compromising versions of the idea would allow for an effective response to the erosion issue at Wamberal.

“Our group opposes the claim from WPA and Central Coast Council that the seawall will cost around $20M, especially if sand nourishment is included,” he said.

Hickey said Manly and Bondi were completely different beach systems to Wamberal, protected by two large headlands helping hold sand.

He said seawalls at Cronulla and Stockton had led to a loss of beach and ultimately failed.

“You cannot deny that Stockton and Cronulla have far more similar beach systems to Wamberal,” he said.

He said advice received by the group from a coastal engineer indicated that putting a hard structure at the end of the ocean’s “deposition path” would create a “reflective effect”.

“Instead of the ocean depositing sand, a ‘backwash effect’ is created and the sand is taken back towards the ocean in the backwash,” he said.

“This means sand no longer deposits as far up the beach, or even on the beach at all, thus reducing overall width of the beach.”

Hickey said sand dunes would be unable to replenish due to the shape of a hard structure and would dissipate and eventually disappear and that there was yet to be any evidence that the ocean is likely to damage any properties or Council infrastructure apart from the beachfront homes.

Terry Collins