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Byron Shire
March 5, 2021

We’ll regret revetments

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Robin Harrison, Binna Burra

In the early 80s I had a significant role in the observation of northerly sand drift on Adelaide’s beaches; another seriously interfered with dune field. Since the South Australia government have to constantly transport sand from the northern beaches to the south at vast expense, the scientific examination of this phenomenon was already exhaustive. The science is well and truly in; hard revetments on dune systems is a complete and utter no-no!

The science is conclusive, just as it is with anthropogenic climate change. As with ACC there are plenty of people with a lack of knowledge or a short term vested interest eager to debate something that has been proven beyond debate. Hard revetments on dune fields have a profoundly negative effect. The only solution is to mimic the wave absorbing qualities of dunes.

We’re stuck with the rocks at main beach and the most sensible suggestion I’ve heard regarding them is David Gillette’s: reshape them to mimic dunes.

I’m not suggesting Belongil should not be protected. Of course it should, but we must pay attention to the science if we want a lasting solution rather than a disaster.


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1 COMMENT

  1. Sloping wooden revetments, geobags, sand & soil, prefab interlocking honeycomb sloping walls – any defense mimicking the dunes which can also grab onto and hold moving sands – will defend property AND save the beaches we all enjoy.
    Hard revetments, rocks, will not. They are definitely a big no-no and a road to disaster – as experienced in Noosa and many other coastal sites where rock walls have been employed.
    But unfortunately these safe options seem to come with an initial price tag that is unsavoury! Few at Byron Shire Council are prepared to consider these options because they don’t want the headache of trying to fund them.
    Consequently, last Thursday, Council voted 6 to 3 to adopt a hard revetment policy for Belongil Beach. Having been directed to a ‘free’ source of rocks for use in the Shire (from the RTA works at Ewingsdale), they now plan to proceed, with unseemly haste, to roll them onto the remaining beachfront at the ends of Manfred, Don and Border Streets. Together with the already failing resident rock walls in existence there, it is highly unlikely that we will see a return of sand to Belongil Beach in coming years!
    Never mind, said one councillor to me, I cannot sacrifice a few homes (not that anybody I know is asking him to do so, with the majority of local residents accepting that these properties should be protected..) –
    “…so some people can have a pleasant stroll on the beach. Maybe if Belongil was the only beach we had, but it is not. We are blessed with many kilometres of beach in the Shire.”
    In saying that, this particular councillor acknowledges that by using the cheapest defense mechanism of rock walls, he expects Belongil Beach to become nothing more than a seawall fronting the ocean. This is not a ‘lasting’ or even ‘inexpensive’ solution ultimately. It is an expedient one, backed by vested interests; a win for private landholders and the loss of an iconic public beach, rather than what could be – with a little foresight and funding redirection – a win/win for all concerned.

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