NEWELL’S BEACH OF A PROBLEM
Luxury homes under threat as sea invades
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.’’
ERODING: the beach at Newell