STOCKTON residents have engaged the NSW Environmental Defenders Office to investigate if the state government has a duty of care to repair their beach following devastating erosion caused by the Newcastle harbour breakwaters.
Money raised through a community GoFundMe appeal, established by prominent local businessman Lucas Gresham, will be used to fund the legal advice.
Stockton Community Action Group (SCAG) engaged the law firm on behalf of the community in its desperate bid to find a long-term solution to the worsening crisis.
Despite Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock agreeing to classify the suburb's severely eroded foreshore among the state's coastal erosion hot spots, there has been little progress on a long-term solution for the environmental crisis.
In September, Ms Hancock promised to deal with the City of Newcastle's funding applications for works as a matter of priority. A huge stretch of coastline remains crippled by erosion and devoid of any usable beach.
Stockton Surf Life Saving Club's nippers program has been held at the pool for several weeks and moved to Little Beach, in Newcastle harbour, last week.
The Environmental Defenders Officer (EDO) is a community legal centre specialising in public interest environmental law.
Principal lawyer Elaine Johnson said the EDO would be exploring what options the community had for "holding the state government to account" for damage to the beach.
"Our clients are very concerned about the impact experienced on the public beach," she said.
"We will be assisting them understand what legal remedy is open to them to address the harm already caused and stop it from occurring again in future."
Northside Boardriders president and SCAG member Simon Jones said there were several areas being looked at.
"One area of investigation is the off-shore mining legislation, to advise if a pathway forward can be found for the approval of off-shore dredging to replenish the sand," he said.
"It's still unknown whether or not it can be done under the current legislation. We also want them to investigate if the state government has a duty of care relating to the fact that its their infrastructure, the Newcastle harbour breakwaters, that has caused the erosion problem."
Residents plan to fight moves to install more rock walls or hard structures along the beach, pushing for an off-shore dredging program to replenish sand.
Access to the beach remains closed in many places along Mitchell Street and the thin strip of sand at the southern end of the beach was covered in weed on Thursday.
"A lot of people are fearing that we've lost the momentum that the community had in its fight to get the beach fixed," Mr Jones said.
"People worry that it gets forgotten... The situation has not changed over here, the majority of the beach is still unusable and there is no surf amenity, any waves are just dumping on the shore."
Deeper reading: Save Stockton Beach
- Former Stockton childcare centre demolished as part of works to secure foreshore
- Deputy Premier John Barilaro confirms all options are on the table for Stockton Beach
- Minister pledges to fast track City of Newcastle funding applications for Stockton
- Stockton residents unite in fight of their lives to revive the beach
- Shifting sands from offshore could save Stockton beach for as little as $5 million
- Our beach is broken and so are our hearts
- Watch the video: Relentless erosion closes Stockton beach
- Erosion wipes out Stockton's only childcare centre
- Community meeting told Stockton beach losing a metre a year
- Mission Australia's storm damaged Stockton early learning centre
- Childcare centre's future under cloud in erosion saga
- Childcare centre forced to close temporarily due to beach erosion threat
- Council back to drawing board over long-term solution for Stockton erosion
- Playground of Stockton's Mission Australia early learning centre set to be relocated as a result of erosion threat
- Fears childcare centre could crumble into the sea
- Stockton solution moves forward with meeting
- Garbage tip washing into the sea at Stockton
- State government handballs responsibility for Stockton beach
- 2017: Exposed mine shaft shows Stockton beach's erosion problem needs 'urgent' solution
- 2016: Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes suggests 'underground breakwall'
- 2016: Worst erosion in memory leaves Stockton beach exposed to next storm
- 2014: Dangerous erosion on Stockton Beach
- 2013: Stockton beach erosion | photos, video