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Wamberal Beach erosion solutions progressing but homeowners still vulnerable one year on

By Sofie Wainwright and Emma Simkin, Sunday July 18, 2021 - 22:28 EST
ABC image
Most of the funding for a long-term solution is expected to fall on the NSW government. - ABC

It's been a year since a severe storm lashed the New South Wales Central Coast and left houses teetering over eroding sand.


Yet questions still remain around the specifics of any long-term erosion solutions and funding.


Some houses remain damaged, leaving homeowners like Chris Rogers feeling on edge.


"We're still all exposed ? the only thing that hasn't happened is another major event," Mr Rogers said. 


"We're still hopeful we get something, so we don't end up back in the same situation."


The chair of the state government-established Wamberal Seawall Advisory Taskforce, Phil Watson, agreed that property owners remained vulnerable until "an appropriate, engineer-designed level of protection" was implemented.


Chipping away at solutions


The Taskforce has been meeting since August last year to assist Central Coast Council to implement a management strategy for Wamberal Beach.


That includes engineer-designed protection such as a seawall and artificial sand nourishment.


Transport for NSW is investigating transporting some sand from the Sydney Metro West Tunnel Project to Wamberal Beach, Bate Bay and Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach.


Studies have been completed into five preliminary seawall designs, ranging in estimated prices of between $25 million and more than $40 million.


Council plans to launch the next phase of its community consultation next week.


Dr Watson said he would be "very disappointed" with the level of progress made to date if it were a "normal" year.


"The past year has been beset by unprecedented challenges in the form of [COVID-19], Council's financial collapse and associated staff restructuring," Dr Watson said.


"All these factors have focused council's efforts in other areas and impaired progress of the taskforce."


Parliamentary secretary for the Central Coast, Adam Crouch, said it was a complex problem but work was advancing.


"I'm confident that we'll see a lot more done over the next 12 months than we have in the past 12 months," Mr Crouch said.


However, progress could be further delayed if the community was unable to agree on a preferred form of protection.


Hugh Naven, the president of the Wamberal Beach Save Our Sand ? a vocal group against a seawall ? argued such a structure would be ineffective and ruin the beach for recreation.


"It's necessary that we have seawalls removed from the table before we can fully endorse sand replenishment," Mr Naven said.


Who will pay?


With the Central Coast Council clawing its way out of debt and under administration, it is unlikely it will be able to contribute a significant amount of funding to cover the cost of solutions.


The Council is seeking written confirmation from the NSW government that it would pay for at least half of the design and approval phase costs associated with the proposed Metro West beach nourishment project.


Mr Crouch said the NSW Government would do everything it could to financially support the council.


"Wamberal won't go away ? it has to be dealt with," Mr Crouch said.


Mr Rogers is confident the NSW Government will do most of the heavy-lifting, and happy for homeowners to help pay.


On the other hand, council may feel a little nervous as it continues to lobby the NSW government for a full reimbursement for emergency coastal erosion work. 


"Councils are left with a very large clean-up bill that typically state government grants are restrictive on the amount [to be reimbursed], leaving councils well out of pocket," council administrator Rik Hart said.


Dr Watson said he would also reach out to the federal government.







- ABC

© ABC 2021

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