The loss of sand from Stockton Beach has been a recognised issue for the past 70 years and is the focus of a current Coastal Management Plan undertaken by the City of Newcastle.
The term Stockton Beach, which is within the City of Newcastle Local Government Area, refers to the most southerly 4km of the 32km beach located in Stockton Bight.
In this article we wish to make three points in regards potential sources of sand for Stockton Beach nourishment.
Firstly, there is firm evidence from UNSW databases for sustained 70-year beach growth (new sand accretion of beach shoreline extending down to the low-water mark) north of the hospital facility.
The UNSW database extends north into the Fern Bay area, as four separate areas.
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Given that this new sand was likely lost/moved from Stockton Beach it would be an obvious fit for beach nourishment.
Significantly, any borrowing of sand for movement south will be naturally replenished, enabling the sand loop system to be sustainably operated.
The database basically shows the sand/shoreline in the City of Newcastle LGA is receding but once the hospital is reached the trend completely reverses.
The beach north of the hospital has been growing at average rates approaching one metre per year.
Peter Jamieson from Anditi notes documented dune growth around the rifle range of some 20 million cubic metres in the period 1950 to 2000. This indicates further potential sand sources.
Secondly, using cost estimates provided in the draft CMP, this sand would be economically attractive at placed costs based on hydraulic pumping in the $16 to $20 per cubic metre range.
This compares to undersized trucked quarry sand also quoted at $80 per cubic metre, which adjusted by an overfill factor of 2.5 equates to $200 per cubic metre for equivalent (coarser) sand.
Lastly, ownership and permission requirements for using these resources has been identified by the Royal HaskoningDHV (one of City of Newcastle's CMP contractors) as potential barrier.
The growing sand resource lies in three main areas; moving south to north: City of Newcastle shoreline land, Port Stephen Council shoreline land and Worimi Conservation Land.
For the shoreline cases here, the WCL land is further split into the Worimi Regional Park (adjacent to the beach) and the included intertidal band that is some 20m wide that runs down the mean low-water mark.
The intertidal band is also part of the WCL Regional Park albeit with a different ownership title.
The intertidal zone was some of the last land added to the WCL regional park and is noted because legal access to this 25km-plus strip may be under separate control.
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The WCL Regional Park is presently leased to NSW Parks and Wildlife Service and operated under the NSW PWS Act that generally prohibits sand extraction.
There is potential for a steady supply of right-sized, low- cost, terrestrial sand that could be in an environmentally-friendly manner, providing negotiations and planning were successful. Because of different ownerships and control of several of these blocks, discussions would likely involve different stakeholder groups.
We note that precedents have been set in NSW for extract sand from regional parks under the NSW PWS act providing this meets management guidelines, or is approved by an act of state parliament.
We believe that permissions under the Act here, unlike offshore mining approval, would not require legislative change and are therefore considered more doable.
There is hard evidence that much of the sand lost from Stockton Beach has found its way to the growing shorelines further north up the bight. Much of this shoreline did not exist prior to 1950.
A second precedent involves reported Worimi Land Council permissions to use terrestrial sand dunes in the Jimmy's Beach area for potential nourishment purposes. These dunes were not, however, located in WCL regional parks.
In summary, there is hard evidence that much of the sand lost from Stockton Beach has found its way to the growing shorelines further north up the bight. Much of this shoreline did not exist prior to 1950.
There are fruitful grounds to pursue permission to cycle this sand southerly in a sustainable manner. This opinion echoes the recommendation of a 2012 study by Worley in the area. Since the Worley study, the UNSW database has since become available.
Dr Ian Taggart is a research associate at the Newcastle University School of Engineering and a Stockton resident
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