The history of beach erosion in Stockton started with the completion of the northern breakwater in 1912. The alongshore drift of sand from the south to the north, bringing 41,000 cubic metres of sand a year to Stockton beach, has been stopped by breakwaters at the entrance to Newcastle harbour. Stockton had sand dunes running along the beach and there were more than 100 metres of sand from the dunes to the surf.
Numerous studies have been undertaken on Stockton beach erosion and many solutions suggested. There is a very large buildup of sand on Nobbys Beach containing 32 million cubic metres. On the Stockton side, we have lost 10 million cubic metres over the years.
The losses at Stockton are far greater than any other area on the NSW coast, including 15 erosion hotspots listed by the government. Incredibly, Stockton isnt included on this list of hotspots. The major cause was shown to be related to breakwater construction and the deepening of the harbour channel.
The studies concluded that the most effective option was an artificial headland in north Stockton together with one-off beach sand nourishment. This would capture the northern movement of sand and allow the beach to recover.
The construction of the breakwaters by the NSW government has created Stocktons devastating beach erosion, and it is up to the NSW government to fund the solution. The government makes multi-millions of dollars every year from port activities and some of this income should be used to address the problem.
Recent large seas have exacerbated the problem, creating 3 metre high cliffs at the surf club. The child care centre is in danger of falling into the sea. An old garbage dump has been exposed and has started to spill its contents into the ocean, leaving the nearby swimming beach covered in a plastic tide of rubbish.
A Council Coastal Management plan for Newcastle was submitted to the government in December 2016 for ratification and funding. It took the government more than nine months to respond to the plan, which they rejected wanting the Stockton issue and solution removed.
The Stockton community is fed up with the governments inaction. The breakwaters are needed for the port, so it is only right that the government fund a solution to the erosion problem from income generated from activities in the port and the proceeds from its sale. More than 300 people called for action at a public meeting in Stockton on this issue last year, including council technical staff, some councillors and MP Tim Crakanthorp. If there is no action on a solution soon, assets will be lost and eventually Stockton will become an island.
If Scot MacDonald was truly the Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter he would be visiting local groups (as requested by the Stockton Community Action Group) to understand the problem and he would be fighting for government funding to address this critical erosion issue.
Ideally the council, government and community need to work together. Funding is urgently needed before further damage is done by large seas that will surely come. We have an obligation to future generations to ensure they are given the same opportunities we take for granted. If devastating erosion is allowed to continue, we will have failed.
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