NEWELL’S BEACH OF A PROB­LEM

Lux­ury homes un­der threat as sea in­vades

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

BEACH ero­sion at Newell is threat­en­ing a r ow o f up­mar­ket prop­er­ties to the point where the own­ers are be­com­ing des­per­ate for a so­lu­tion be­fore their houses slip on to the beach.

Leading the res­i­dents, some of whom are re­luc­tant to be named for fear of ru­in­ing their hol­i­day rental mar­ket rep­u­ta­tions, is Colin Robertson, a de­sign en­gin- eer who owns a medi­um­sized prod­uct com­pany in Mel­bourne.

Mr Robertson and a busi­ness part­ner own two prop­er­ties along the Newell fore­shore and he spends a few months there each year.

‘‘We came and saw it and fell in love with Newell Beach,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s so nat­u­ral and un­spoilt.’’

Mr Robertson says that over the 10 years or so that he has owned property on the fore­shore the change has been dra­matic.

‘‘It’s lost about 25 me­tres out the front,’’ he said.

‘‘We used to have a lawn out in front, with sprin­klers. In fact, there was veg­e­ta­tion out in front of our place.

‘‘I guess it’s not rocket sci­ence – Newell Beach is built on a sand spit. And I guess that sand spit sort of ebbs and flows, as the sea­sons change, as the tides change – that’s prob­a­bly the way it’s al­ways been. The wis­dom of build­ing on a sand spit, as I know now, prob­a­bly should never have hap­pened in the first place.

‘‘Sand tends to come and go, so you know, it’s not cli­mate change, it’s not global warm­ing, it’s re­ally just the nat­u­ral ebb and flow of the tides and the ocean.’’

But given that the places were al­lowed to be de­vel­oped, ‘‘we now have a sit­u­a­tion where some­thing has to be done, there has to be man­made in­ter­ven­tion to bring the beach back from prop­er­ties which are threat­ened,’’ he said.

Mr Robertson be­lieves some rock groynes placed per­pen­dic­u­lar to the beach at the river mouth would be a so­lu­tion.

He says it was im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge the prob­lem and then ex­plore the range of so­lu­tions.

The first thing, due to the ur­gency of the sit­u­a­tion and the pace of ero­sion, is to halt fur­ther loss of the fore­shore by sand­bag­ging it, he be­lieves. And then it’s a mat­ter of the au­thor­i­ties, in par­tic­u­lar the DSC, of ex­plor­ing fea­si­ble long-term so­lu­tions.

The prob­lem is so press­ing that Mr Robertson says he and some other own­ers are pre­pared to fund the sand-bag­ging out of their own pock­ets – they just need the coun­cil’s go-ahead.

Mr Robertson says he has met with Mayor Ju­lia Leu sev­eral times, and she ex­pressed sym­pa­thy but was non- com­mit­tal about a re­sponse by the shire it­self.

The Gazette asked the coun­cil for its at­ti­tude to the sit­u­a­tion at the Newell fore­shore.

Dou­glas Shire said coun­cil of­fi­cers would pre­pare a re­port to con­sider op­tions to help mit­i­gate ero­sion there.

Gen­eral man­ager op­er­a­tions Paul Hoye said coun­cil staff re­moved sev­eral large fallen trees and other de­bris from Newell Beach dur­ing a two­day clean-up oper­a­tion re­cently.

‘‘The beach is prone to ero­sion partly due to a groyne which has formed near the Moss­man River mouth,’’ he said.

‘‘It forms a nat­u­ral bar­rier which means there is no re­plen­ish­ment for sec­tions of the beach.

‘‘Coun­cil has re­plen­ished Newell Beach with more than 10,000 cu­bic me­tres of sand and dredged the area around the boat ramp in re­cent years to al­le­vi­ate some of the prob­lems.

‘‘Of­fi­cers will pre­pare a re­port for coun­cil to con­sider what the al­ter­na­tives are and the cost of those, and coun­cil’s in­volve­ment and re­spons- ibil­ity, if any.’’

Mr Robertson re­sponded to this state­ment by say­ing that the clear­ing of the fallen trees of the beach­front did not ad­dress the is­sue and may even make the ero­sion worse.

Mr Robertson said there had been a huge build up of sand at both the north­ern (Salt Wa­ter creek) and south­ern (Moss­man River) end over the last sev­eral years. Re­gard­ing the re­plen­ish­ing of sand, Mr Robertson said ‘‘ lo­cals were scratch­ing their heads and won­der­ing why coun­cil put 10,000 cu­bic me­tres of sand on the beach when it would just be washed away (which it was). Turns out the dredg­ing con­trac­tor at the Dain­tree was re­quired to dis­pose of the fill lo­cally; putting the sand at Newell Beach was sim­ply the cheap­est so­lu­tion.’’

He said the hol­i­day rental prop­er­ties at Newell in­jected mil­lions of dol­lars into the lo­cal econ­omy. ‘‘More im­por­tantly, the beach is a pop­u­lar hub and the demise of both the beach and the mag­nif­i­cent trees that line the shore­line must be a huge con­cern to the lo­cal com­mu­nity. I’d say coun­cil has a huge re­spon­si­bly to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion.’’

Pic­ture: SHANE NI­CHOLS

EROD­ING: the beach at Newell

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