The Stockton beach I remember was a beautiful beach despite the debris of a busy trading port.
My family fondly remembers weekends at Stockton beach staying in the onsite van I used for accommodation while working on a blast furnace shutdown. They looked forward to Stockton beach each Friday as they made the trek from Sydney's West.
Today Stockton beach is an environmental disaster with stretches of rock seawalls and a badly eroded dune system with a steep escarpment.
Further north, there is the disgusting mess of an old tip spewing the garbage of previous generations onto one of the most beautiful beaches you could ever find.
Stockton beach is representative of the failure of successive federal and state governments to deal with the legacy of coastal development. They refuse to take responsibility for what is a state and national issue, but reap the royalties and taxes of our coastal zone.
Instead, the entire responsibility is laid on regional coastal communities such as Stockton.
On May 31, 2016, the NSW state coalition government announced "one of the most innovative pieces of coastal planning legislation in the world today".
Within days a coastal storm damaged homes on Collaroy beach and ripped open the dune system of Wamberal beach.
Like Stockton beach, a poisonous legacy of debris including illegally dumped asbestos, was exposed and remains at Wamberal beach after more than three years of inaction.
The legislation was rammed through by the NSW state coalition with the support of the Greens, Shooters and Fishers, Christian Democrats and independents. The Labor opposition voted against it, demanding more time to properly consult affected communities.
The "world class" Coastal Management Act, now fully operational, is flawed and hopeless when it comes to dealing with the erosion and destruction of Stockton beach. The Coastal Destruction Act is being implemented up and down the coast of NSW with the unrealistic intention of rolling back years of coastal development. Up to 60,000 homes are potentially affected, together with a range of public assets.
Stockton beach is a consequence of the failure of successive Labor and Coalition governments over many years to develop an appropriate response that addresses the legacy of existing coastal development.
It's a balancing act that requires building greater resilience for our regional coastal communities, not destroying them, while protecting our remaining undeveloped coast.
Grubby party politics have surfaced when we need a bipartisan approach. Extremists have confused the issue of climate change with today's destruction of our beaches just to delay or stop the action that is required now. Local MPs such as Labor MP for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp and Liberal MP for Terrigal Adam Crouch, who stand up for their communities are attacked by the other side when they should be acclaimed. This is not a natural disaster.
What we are seeing here is the known destruction of one of our most important pieces of social and recreational infrastructure - Australian beaches and waterways - and the freedom offered to all to enjoy.
It is the development of one of the greatest trading ports in the world that is the root cause. A port that ships out over 161 million tonnes of coal each year from Hunter mines, which in turn contributes hugely to total NSW state coal royalties of almost $1.8 billion a year. We all benefit.
Newcastle Port plays an important role in our national and state economies and the regional economy of the Hunter and Central Coast. It's only fair a small percentage of these revenues should be used to rebuild Stockton beach and maintain it into the future.
The solutions are known, the funds are available but there is no apparent political will.
Together with our many other regional beaches and small townships it will form an increasingly important and highly valuable public asset that supports the wellbeing of a rapidly growing population including the people of Sydney, who will increasingly seek the uncrowded beaches and waterways of coastal regions.
The solutions are known, the funds are available but there is no apparent political will. Almost $84 million was set aside by the NSW state coalition government for grants to manage and protect our beaches and waterways from 2017 until 2021. More than $60 million remains.
Stockton has a future just like all our many regional coastal communities have, but we need pragmatic parliamentary representatives who are prepared to buck the bureaucracy and get on with it.
Pat Aiken is the NSW Coastal Alliance coordinator, Central Coast
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