Letters to Editor

Letter to Editor: Sea level rise erodes beaches – not trees

Increasing Arctic and Antarctic ice-melt means sea levels are rising and this won’t be stopped until we reverse our destructive economy.

But instead of trying to fight global warming and its catastrophic results we get letters like “Beach scrub dangers” (Illawarra Mercury December 28 2012) arguing that the habitat somehow strangles  beaches and causes higher tides!  This nonsense has to stop.

Drowning is often the result of ignorance as people don’t know the dangers and need  education in water safety.

Likewise falsely blaming vegetation or certain tree species could also be the result of ignorance –  but more often it’s people who live opposite who claim they have a right to a ‘view’.  There is no legal right to a view.  The problem is councils allow roads and buildings too close to the beach, causing over-exploitation of the coast.

There is a NSW Coastal protection policy that recommends a building setback of one kilometre from the coast –  I wish.

Jill Walker


January 1 2013

About Mick Roberts

A Sydney journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in Australia for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick has owned and managed several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW. He currently calls the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills home.


9 thoughts on “Letter to Editor: Sea level rise erodes beaches – not trees

  1. Hi Jill, I personally invite you for a coffee so I can explain to you scientifically what is happening on the beaches due to the vegetation. I will show you how it is against a coastal expert’s instructions who wrote the NSW Planning advice on dune management and how it is a dangerous and unfriendly and potentially expensive liability for our community according to that expert, my email is madclowns@bigpond.com ……..Michael


    Posted by Michael | January 2, 2013, 8:42 am
  2. PS Jill, Michael again. I have had over 20,000 separate beach observations which includes ocean wave effects on beaches, affects of many species of vegetation on beaches and beach sand movement in every climatic condition spanning over 43 years. I am highly qualified where it counts. The NSW Planning expert I refer to states that dune vegetation is fine in some applications which I don’t dispute, but not for our urban coastline in many cases. Yes building close to the ocean does interrupt coastal processes as you say and I am extremely against this. I can explain to you how vegetation on beaches further interrupts these processes making the situation worse, according to the expert.
    I can show you what he means, a friendly chat at any Coffee shop near the beach would be great. Maybe we can work together to preserve our precious environment, bring whoever you want, Thanks Michael.


    Posted by Michael | January 2, 2013, 9:10 am
    • Jill some facts for you regarding sea level rise, which is freely available on the internet. The disinformation which people spread needs to be corrected, as you are not the only one parroting this nonsence. The CSIRO statistics, which the NSW government use, state from 1992 to 2012 sea level has risen 60mm .This is the data from their satellites, TOPEX/poseidon,jason-1 and jason2. The ratio given to us by the Department of Heritage and Environment was four to one. So in 20 years the ocean has come in 240mm, thats nine inches, Jill. So forget it (global warming) eroding beaches. In the last 20 years the (Wollongong City) Council and others have planted out our beaches. Michael Zaracostas has covered factually and comprehensively the disgraceful treatment of our pristine beaches in the Bulli Times on April 20 2012.For other enlightening information I suggest you check out ‘Coastal Dune Management’ the NSW Government Deptartment of the Environment manual on what not to do to a beach, also ‘Beaches of the Illawarra’ by Prof.Ted Bryant. These are available on the net and I invite you to enlighten your knowledge. Confusing global warming and the mistreatment of the communities assets is a common trap many fall into.
      Regards Ken McDougall.


      Posted by Ken Mc Dougall | January 4, 2013, 11:33 am
  3. Jill the beach at Woonona used to wash in approximately 40m more than it does now in a moderate swell, so sea level rise has come in 240mm (They say they need another 20 years of records to determine the role of global warming on recent sea level trends). The planting has gone seawards 40m, guess what happens. King Canute (Danish King of England who is best remembered for his futile attempt to stop the tide – Moderator) tried it but he didn’t tell our Council the result he got.
    regards Ken McDougall


    Posted by Ken Mc Dougall | January 4, 2013, 12:01 pm
    There is a nonsensical argument put forward by some that an individual cannot own a view. Yet this argument is contradicted by Legal Cases whereby individuals have fought for reinstatement of their views and won the right to have view blocking vegetation pruned or removed. Subsequently, DCP’s have incorporated controls that reflect these legal judgments. (See below for details).
    Some, like Jill Walker, may argue a case against View Ownership, particularly in relation to representations from coastal property owners. The flaw in that argument fails to acknowledge that, if a property owners coastal view has been obscured by non-native (to the locality) vegetation, planted by man, then more than likely the public’s view from that same location (i.e. cycle way, picnic grass, and bench seat) has also been obscured. In short, if the view has been planted out, then it’s been planted out for all, not just the property owner. Coastal Vistas from both public and private amenities should be protected, and property owners should be entitled to the protection of their views. After all, they paid (quite dearly) for the view, the Valuer-General values property higher because of its views, Council happily charges higher rates for these views, therefore those owners should HAVE the view that they are paying for.
    What right does Council or any minority group have to come along and rob them and the public of those vistas and de-value their land?

    DCP 2009
    11.8 View Sharing
    2. “View sharing” concerns the equitable distribution of views between properties.

    11.8.3 View Assessment Process
    Water views are generally more highly valued than land views. Iconic views (e.g. Wollongong Harbour / Lighthouse, northern Illawarra coastline, Sea Cliff Bridge, views across the sea towards Five Islands etc.) are more valued than views without icons. Whole views are valued more highly than partial views (eg a water view in which the interface between land and water is visible is more valuable than one in which it is obscured).

    Legal Precedents
    Trees not worth a fig when views at stake Sunanda Creagh Urban Affairs Reporter,SMH: August 26, 2008
    ……..The Woollahra Mayor, Geoff Rundle, said he advocated a cautious approach to tree removal. He said people often planted trees without knowing how big they would become.
    “Maybe we should have a development application process for trees,” he said. “Trees and views are an issue right across the municipality.” Cr Anthony Boskovitz said the residents’ concerns resonated with many in the Woollahra municipality. “I totally agree we should be preserving views and these trees were the wrong species from the start.”
    The council voted last night to review the public tree management policy Woollahra residents can prune park trees Wentworth Courier 10 Aug 11 @ 11:30am by KEVIN CHENG CHEERS and jeers from residents filled the chambers of Woollahra Council on Monday night as councillors voted to approve the new tree management policy….Liberal councillor Chris Howe’s address was met with applause by residents as he said “a tree is a tree” and people should be allowed to keep their views. “Most people in Woollahra accept tree pruning is a proper process,” he said. “They bought the view, they deserve the view and they should have the view,” he said. Cr Boskovitz also refuted claims by Greens councillors, who said Woollahra would be the only council in Australia to pass such a policy. “A number of councils have the same policy like Mosman, Lane Cove, Randwick and Port Macquarie,” he said.

    Fell trees and open up view, says court. SMH: Stephen Nicholls May 12, 2012
    WHO said you can’t own a view? The chairman of Leighton Holdings, Stephen Johns, has won his view back in a court decision. Mr Johns took his Bellevue Hill neighbour, Tom Breuer, widower of art gallery owner Eva, who died of cancer in 2010, to the Land and Environment Court.
    Mr Breuer has been ordered to remove a hedge of seven Leyland cypress trees growing on his Victoria Road property, which the court found severely obstructed Mr Johns’s views across Rose Bay, Shark Island, Sydney Harbour and Vaucluse to Middle Head. Commissioner Judy Fakes found the trees, which ranged from six metres high to 11 metres, could not be pruned without ruining them, so they had to go. Peter Speed, of Speed and Stracey Lawyers, who represented Mr Johns, said the relevant law was the Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006.
    ”Views, especially water views, are critical to a property’s amenity and value,” Mr Speed said. ”[The act] gives the court wide power to fix a situation where two or more trees forming a hedge severely obstructs the views, or sunlight, of another residence.”

    Residents want to see sea, not trees. The Herald 08 May, 2012 09:19 AM
    After the drama of Laman Street, Newcastle City Council had hoped its plans to plant 30,000 new street trees throughout the city would be much less controversial. Not so at Stockton, where residents are taking legal action to stop tree plantings they believe will block their ocean views and reduce the value of their homes. The council said yesterday it would soon plant beach hibiscus trees in Mitchell Street on “the boundary line of every second property in order to maximise the view corridors for the residents”. The trees can grow to 10 metres with a bushy canopy, but the council says they will be pruned during the first few years to ensure they grow straight and true.
    But Mitchell Street residents are upset and angry, and claim they haven’t been properly consulted and will still be badly affected. Bob Dein said the strip is one of the most desirable locations on the east coast. “These trees, if planted . . . will have nothing but an adverse effect on us all,” Mr Dein said. “There are no parts of Stockton, no people in Stockton that are going to benefit from these trees.” Forty-nine people have signed a petition during the past few days and late yesterday, a lawyer acting for residents advised the council they were taking legal action.


    Posted by Simon | January 6, 2013, 8:26 am
  5. ‘What right does Council or any minority group have to come along and rob them and the public of those vistas and de-value their land?’

    Nice spin Simon but what minority group? For example: The majority of people in the area didn’t want the stockland subdivision yet the minority (the ones with the money) won out on that one. Now once again a small vocal minority with vested interests i.e. money, are calling for the vegetation to be cut down or removed? what a joke.
    Their is clearly a whole lot of drive for removal of vegetation coming from people living in houses right on the coast and others with vested interests in property development. That is NOT a majority by a long shot. It appears that the general public are for the restoration of natural dune vegetation.

    Besides- using your logic –>My view has been ruined by Mcmansions in an area that they should never have been placed in. So I would like trees planted on public land in front of these to block the view of them and the view the public have to endure from public land. What right do you have to tell the public that his natural vegetation on public land should be removed just so you can show your visitors your ‘great’ view?


    Posted by Ben Byrne | January 7, 2013, 12:06 pm
  6. Like Simon helpfully pointed out, this argument is all a smokescreen for people worried about their views.

    There area plenty of other issues here that are more important then a debatable legal opinion.

    Here are some real facts:

    Over the last 200 years Australia has suffered the largest documented decline in biodiversity of any continent.

    Almost half of all worldwide mammal extinctions in the last 200 years have occurred in Australia.
    1,667 species are listed as threatened under National legislation. A further 103 are listed as extinct. That is just the mammals and these figures are conservative. The situation is likely to be much worse. One of the main reasons for this? Loss of habitat.

    Yet here we are with people advocating that over the whole of the Illawarra, coastal dune vegetation be reduced to a tiny strip of plants on each beach (as long as they don’t block the view mind you).

    What happens when the council north of us and then the council south of us does the same thing? Pretty soon we have none of this habitat type remaining.No wonder we have such a bad record on conserving our wildlife.


    Posted by Lachlan | January 17, 2013, 11:52 am
  7. Jill, Ben and Lachlan are spot on. Habitat, shade, oxygen, catching litter before it makes it to the ocean, stopping sand from being lost forever and the protection of assets built too close to the coast are important, views are not. I am not a scientist or a legal expert like others claim to be, but I would have thought that people who were built out by McMansion’s would also then have a right to compensation, so where would it end?
    I also would have thought that considering our tidal range is less than 1000mm, a sea level rise of 240mm would be quite significant wouldn’t it? I do agree that ocean action dictates the shape and form of the coastline. Small seas allow the dunes to build up sand and large seas reverse this by stripping sand from the dune and when this happens dune vegetation dies because the roots are exposed to salt water and air. Large seas late last year stripped tonnes of sand from the dunes and left a scarp on many beaches, depositing the sand out beyond the breakers. After the last few weeks of small seas the sand can be seen much closer in to shore as it returns to the beach. Without vegetation what would happen when the sand is blown onto roads, into surf clubs and gardens, how will it return then? In the back of truck? A couple of our beaches at low tide are looking like an air strip at the moment, so wide you could land a plane on them.
    Just for the record, Acacia longifolia var sophorae is listed in the state government’s coastal dune management manual many times, there are even photos of it growing in the dunes and Acacia longifolia is the first plant of Banks & Solander species list taken from Australia in the 1780’s. What do you know? It was here before us. Descriptions of landing with the first fleet also speak of a sprawling, twisted wattle with long spoon shaped leaves and very little visible sand in the dunes, due to thick vegetation, sounds like the same species to me. Drawings from the 1800’s of this region also show vegetation growing right to the beach, so the argument that this vegetation does not belong just doesn’t wash.


    Posted by Paul | January 21, 2013, 12:08 am
  8. Letter to the Editor
    Looking for Beryl Munt and Michelle Taylor.
    I trained as a teacher in the 1960’s with Beryl Munt and Michelle Taylor… both from the northern Illawarra. If any of your readers know of either Beryl or Michelle or their families I would be grateful for any contact details.
    Jon Hillman.
    Mobile 0417 062 086 or email jonhillman48@hotmail.com


    Posted by Jon Hillman | January 28, 2019, 3:28 am

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