Jan Hackett, Sunrise Beach
Thanks, Rose Wanchap, for the clarifications you made with your letter (Echonetdaily March 11) regarding Byron Council’s recent call for a report on the suitability of using rocks at Belongil Beach and other parts of the shire.
You mention specialist engineers stating that the effect on the beach remains the same whatever material is used when creating barriers against the sea.
Well, I’m no scientist or engineer, just a descendant from a pioneering family, but my own personal observations, as well as my readings on the subject, have led me to a very different conclusion.
I am not alone in observing that rocks do have a destabilising impact on a beach. Rocks deflect the sand and push it elsewhere. The deepest water on any beach is always around a rock formation or before a rock wall.
Currently there is little beach at the old Belongil spit. I would like to take you for a walk along that beach frontage, but we may have to wait out most of this year before this is once again possible. The only places where Belongil beach is approachable is at the three Council access areas – where sandbags have been placed instead of rocks!
Yes, the rock walls and groynes in town have protected the car park and swimming pool and led to an escalation of sand to the east of the surf club. Conversely, they have obliterated central Main beach and caused significant erosion to the west and north. The once whole and continuous beach has effectively been split in two, a beach for play to the east and a dysfunctional broken beach to the west.
Then there are the costs associated with the building of further rock walls. We may well have a readily available free source of rocks from the roadworks at Ewingsdale, but sound construction of what will constitute a permanent edifice, not an interim one, and its ongoing maintenance, let alone the impact on the environment and the loss of revenue for developers and the business community (loss of beach = loss of business opportunities), may well exceed budgetary constraints.
A cautionary tale was expounded by Dr Norman Sanders in The Byron Echo recently. The building of seawalls in California damaged further coastline and threatened coastal towns, leading to the extension of the walls, with building and maintenance costs escalating way out of proportion to the benefits achieved by the communities they were trying to protect.
More frightening is what has happened in Noosa, Qld. The surf beach there had always been vulnerable to scouring, but before human meddling began, it had unfailingly returned to its former glory. After Council erected rock groynes and protection walls linking those begun previously by property owners, there was nothing left of the beach but the wall itself. Taxpayers, the Hastings St Traders Assoc, the Noosa Beach Protection Authority, council and state government, all now subsidise the rebuilding of an artificial beach to the tune of more than $500,000 per annum.
Surely everyone’s money is better spent researching alternative barrier protection works than rocks, protection which is genuinely interim, which has the ability to hold the sand and allow the beach to rebuild rapidly after storm events, and does not pollute the sea and wildlife. I’m sure such means exist. Meanwhile the sandbags placed by Council have been doing a pretty good job and the costs are known, not hidden amid future chaos.