By MICK ROBERTS
AN Illawarra environmentalist has slammed calls to remove vegetation from Illawarra beaches, saying the plantings stabilise the dunal systems and protects the coastline from erosion.
Former Greens Federal MP for Cunningham Michael Organ said dune stabilisation is a vital part of coastal protection, and the work of previous councils and government instrumentalities in the northern suburbs has meant that erosion has in many instances been stalled and the public has be able to continue to enjoy local beaches.
Mr Organ, who grew up on Bulli’s beaches, said tree plantings, removal of weeds and dune stabilisation needs to be expanded along our coastline due to the imminent threats of sea level rises and severe storm events.
“If this is not done, we can see the loss of sand on our beaches and the inevitable imposition of concrete walls and rocks in wire cages in efforts to hold back the ocean and stop incursions,” he told The Bulli Times.
“Natural revegetation is the best method of dealing with Mother Nature’s fury.”
The Bulli Times reported on April 15 Michael Zaracostas’ campaign for the removal of all coastal vegetation on Illawarra’s beaches.
Mr Zaracostas says under the banner of “dune stabilisation”, uncontrolled plant invasion is impractical and dangerous. He says the plantings breach NSW Planning guidelines.
The guidelines contained in the publication, Coastal Dune Management, he says, state an adequate beach berm width must be maintained to permit normal coastal processes, especially at high water levels during storms.
Mr Zaracostas, in a submission to council, says the problem with sand blowing on roads should be dealt with in a way that doesn’t destroy beach amenity.
“By removing the plants from all beaches as per the guidelines, sand could be allowed to blow naturally to the back of the beach against a barrier,” he said.
“It could then be captured and recycled to renourish beaches that are lacking sand. This would maintain the safe natural beach gradient to exist, allowing natural coastal processes and restore safe swimming conditions.”
Mr Zaracostas said dune vegetation stops sand blowing to the back of the beach where sand reserves can provide the most protection.
“The shoreward spreading plants don’t allow the sand to blow naturally. Woonona’s sand dunes have no protective dune height at the back of the beach where it should have, due to sand being blocked by the non-complying plants. The dune height simply grows towards the shoreline where storms can easily remove it leaving the back beach vulnerable.”
A Wollongong City Council spoksperson told The Bulli Times that the purpose of the dune plantings was to reduce the large volumes of sand that that was being blown onto roads and parks and to provide a sand buffer to protect assets such as surf clubs whose foundations had been undermined during previous major storms.
Council acknowledged that the current extent of vegetation on beaches like Woonona had extended seaward beyond the extent of the original planting and that ongoing management of the vegetation is required.
Council has obtained funding to prepare a draft Coastal Zone Management Plan. The spokesperson said that Council is preparing a brief to engage a consultant to prepare the strategy.
The strategy will consider issues such as the types and appropriateness of vegetation currently occurring in the dunes, the lateral distribution of vegetation across the dunes, weed management, and sightline issues with the surf life saving clubs due to the presence of vegetation.