CITY of Newcastle believes it may have found a solution for Stockton's worsening beach erosion, but is unsure if it's allowed to pursue it.
A lord mayoral minute passed on Tuesday night seeks answers from the state government about the possibility of offshore sand mining to combat the erosion crisis. It's estimated up to 70 metres has been lost from the beach since 1981.
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes cited a state government funded report that identifies offshore sand extraction as one of the only viable methods for large-scale beach nourishment along the open coast.
Cr Nelmes said despite this expert advice from the University of NSW's Water Research Laboratory, the government's position "remained unclear".
She said clarity was needed from the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) to move forward with a plan for the threatened coastal strip.
"A recent NSW government-sponsored report identified offshore sand extraction as possibly the only method to renourish Stockton Beach, however it remains unclear whether the NSW government will support the use of this mechanism as part of City of Newcastle's coastal management program," she said.
"I want to thank the Stockton Community Liaison Group and the Newcastle Coastal Planning Working Group for the work they have done to date to address coastal erosion at Stockton.
"It is clear from my discussions with both groups that clarity from the NSW government is urgently needed to move forward with our vital coastal planning and management."
Stockton-based coastal erosion expert associate professor Ron Boyd, of Newcastle University's School of Environmental and Life Sciences, said there were limited options for sourcing sand and offshore extraction could be the most suitable and cost effective method.
"The severe sand erosion problem at Stockton can only be remediated by sand replenishment," Professor Boyd said.
"I'm aware that there's an abundance of sand available on the inner shelf off Newcastle for this purpose, as well as a large sand deposit accumulating seaward of Nobbys Beach.
"Many coastal councils would also be considering this option, and in the short window available to draft Coastal Management Programs, it's critical to identify if this option is available and how to proceed to include it."
An OEH spokesman said all feasible options would be investigated.
"This work includes investigating how much sand would be required to address community concerns, what would be the environmental impacts of any proposed scheme, how any proposed activities would be funded and what constraints might exist with extracting sand," he said.
"Sand extraction for beach replenishment is legal in NSW however, the abovementioned issues and any other required by various legislation, such as the Offshore Minerals Act, would need to be considered during any approval process."
The Herald's Opinion: Time for a close look at a real solution for Stockton Beach