SYDNEY (Xinhua) – Residents in the township of Stockton, about 170km north of Sydney, Australia, fear their iconic beach could be lost forever due to severe coastal erosion.
Once known for its surf and golden sand, in recent months, the problem has become worse in Stockton that the local Surf Life Saving Club has been forced to shut its doors after 112 years as the ocean continues to claim more and more sand from the shoreline.
A community daycare centre which supports over 70 children has also suffered the same fate, with the foundation of the building now under threat from rising water levels. While coastal erosion is a natural phenomenon which occurs in varying degrees all over the world, a leading earth science expert at the nearby University of Newcastle told Xinhua yesterday that on this occasion the issue has been caused by human interference.
“If you go back 110 years, there wasn’t an erosion problem in the Stockton area, but around about 1912 some pretty big harbour infrastructure was created in Newcastle to supply BHP (steel manufacturer) and the coal trade,” Associate Professor Ron Boyd said.
“They extended the breakwaters out 1,100 metres from the shoreline and they dredged a fairly deep channel about 18 metres deep to allow ships to enter the port. So that large structure interferes with the natural flow of sand from south to north along the New South Wales state coast.”
“Since that time, no new sand has come into Stockton Beach but a lot of sand, around 10 million cubic metres, has travelled north away from the Stockton area.”
With the issue creating a huge amount of anger and frustration in the community, Stockton Surf Life Saving Club President Callan Nickerson told the Guardian News outlet, “People used to come home from work and kick off their shoes and get straight down there to put their feet in the water. Now they’re just going down to see how much sand we’ve lost that day. It’s sad and it’s shameful.”
But despite the gloom which has gripped the town, Boyd said the problem can be fixed. “Up at the NSW border at Tweed Heads, they’ve constructed similar breakwaters which have also created an erosion effect,” he explained.
“But the state government contributes about AUD5 million per year to maintain the flow of sand over to the Gold Coast beaches to stop them from eroding.”
“It would probably be a similar level of expenditure to replace lost sand at Stockton, but it would only need to be transported probably once every 10-15 years.”