ALTHOUGH the sudden and apparently permanent closure of Stockton's popular Lexie's on the Beach cafe has come as a shot out of nowhere, the entire history of the decades-long erosion of the populated stretch of Stockton Beach is more like a slow-motion train wreck than a "black swan" moment injecting an unexpected uncertainty into the region's politics.
Stockton has been losing sand for so many years that both major parties have been in power for long enough at state and federal levels to have had tackled the problem in a more comprehensive manner than the band-aid solutions that have characterised the approach until now.
There is still room to extend the last-ditch rock walls that have prevented the waves eating their way towards residential Mitchell Street and the triangle of Crown land that holds the town's sporting fields, its surf club, the now-closed cafe, the caravan park and the swimming pool.
STOCKTON LATEST:Lexie's closure and caravan cabins draw residents' ire
But rocks and sandbags can only do so much when the problem - extreme and unnatural sand flows triggered beyond reasonable doubt by the harbour breakwalls - can only really be alleviated by either somehow blocking the swells and currents that are doing the "damage", or by replenishing the sand with a major, Gold Coast-style offshore dredging operation.
Newcastle City Council - taking umbrage at the criticism levelled at it over its decision to shut Lexie's on public safety grounds - says it's the NSW government that is holding things up by refusing to engage on the offshore dredging question.
The council may be correct, given a state promise of a solution by the end of last year.
But if the council wants to improve relations with a doubtful public, it should release the "independent" report it is using to justify a permanent cafe closure, apparently on the basis of a heavy north-east swell it expects to arrive just every two years or so.
At the same time, the future of Stockton Beach should be a matter of concern for all of this region's political representatives, federal as well as state, and from inland electorates as well as coastal Newcastle, because Stockton and its caravan park are a destination enjoyed by people from all over the Hunter Region, and, indeed, beyond.
We often talk of the need for the Hunter to speak to government with one voice.
The inexorable erosion of Stockton cries out for such a forceful approach.
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