WITH the winter storm season arriving right on cue, and this week’s king tides coinciding with a battering from an East Coast low, Old Bar’s beachside residents are again holding their collective breath.
Last night’s predicted five to six metre swells and south to south-westerly winds peaking at an estimated 65kph were just what Old Bar doesn’t need at this stage, as its precarious coast continues to fall into the ocean.
The Weather Bureau yesterday warned people from the south coast through to Crowdy Head to “batten down” as the latest low pressure system began to take effect.
Its Severe Weather Warning contained reference to “storm surge along the coast from the Mid North Coast to the South Coast”, as well as damaging wind, surf and rain, expected to hit the Manning’s coastline last night.
The State Emergency Service also yesterday warned of “inundation and erosion” as the five to six metre swells combined with high tides.
Last night’s king tide (around 9-10pm along the Mid North Coast) was a whopping 2.11 metres, and tonight’s is expected to reach 2.06 metres.
There were predictions that last night, the tide would over-top Forster breakwall, made even worse by the expected storm surge.
But yesterday, Old Bar Beach Sand Replenishment Group – the community group fighting to stop Old Bar’s erosion – was delivered a double blow by Greater Taree City Council.
“How can this council continue to ignore the jewel in its crown?” asked OBBSRG chairperson, Elaine Pearce. “Does council ever have a ‘yes’ answer?”
Ms Pearce reacted angrily to two letters received from council, both rejecting suggestions made by her community group in its prolonged fight to find answers to Old Bar’s worsening problem.
Nominated one of the State’s top three beach erosion hotspots, Old Bar has already lost two houses to the sea, as well as huge chunks of public land and littoral rainforest, the most worrying in front of Old Bar Public School.
OBBSRG had asked council to carry out urgent repairs to the wire structure which surrounds the existing rock-filled gabion wall near Badgers Creek, and also whether the public exhibition period for council’s draft Coastal Zone Management Plan could be extended to 60 days.
Council’s senior leading strategic planning Richard Pamplin, in his reply to the group, gave an emphatic thumbs down to both requests.
“I can’t even think of the words to say how disappointed we are,” Ms Pearce said.
“The gabion wall is deteriorating every day. The local community has no doubt that the wall has acted as a groyne and replenished and held the sand on that section of the beach since it was built in 1992.
“Yet council now says it is neither the owner nor manager of this structure, that it does not have an allocated budget for its maintenance, and that it does not currently intend to apply for any grant funding.”
Mr Pamplin indicated in a second letter that the draft Coastal Management Plan (which Ms Pearce says has been on the drawing board for a drawn-out seven years) should be ready for public exhibition “in the first half of June”. This would enable it to be considered at a June meeting of the Estuary, Coastline and Catchment Management Committee
While denying OBBSRG’s request for an extension of the public submission period, he said he was happy to re-visit the matter in the future “should the document not be on exhibition when currently anticipated.”
Council has several times rejected the group’s suggestions of an artificial reef to protect the Old Bar coastline, with the group seeking to have it included in the long awaited coastal management plan, and to be used as a blueprint for other eroded areas of the NSW coastline.