Old Bar Beach erosion study findings

MORE than 100 people attended two community forums, run by Greater Taree City Council, at Old Bar this week.

The forums were meant to better inform and discuss with the wider community, council's plans to protect Old Bar's eroding coastline.

However, community members have widely expressed their disappointment at council's handling of the 'forum' that saw no one allowed to speak or ask questions.

"We just had to sit there and be told, it was nothing like what we were led to believe," said a representative from Old Bar Beach Sand Replenishment Group (OBBSRG).

The group has long been campaigning for an offshore artificial reef to be constructed at Old Bar, as a way to stop the erosion, and has conducted its own study into the particular stretch of beach.

In the lead up to the forum the group implored council to allow its own representative to join the list of speakers, however this was declined.

Instead council and the State government's coastal engineering experts spoke on the prediction for coastal hazard risk for Old Bar, the impact of that risk on the community and property owners, and the means by which they feel it can be mitigated.

The speakers included Gary Blumberg and Pat Lawless of Royal HaskoningDHV and James Carley from the University of NSW's Water Research Laboratory, who advised on the potential loss of 50 to 200 homes in Old Bar if nothing is done to address the rapidly eroding and receding coastline.

OBBSRG representatives refuted claims made by the speakers regarding the 'shortcomings' of the offshore reef at Narrowneck and are urging people to look at footage of the site in Queensland and make up their own mind.

The State government says Old Bar is of significant importance as it is one of 11 hot spots along the coast, with an estimated loss of 25 metres in the last 10 years, and the highest loss of property and damage.

Council's executive leader corporate support, Laura Black said council is required to make a recommendation regarding a preferred management option to the State after its May ordinary council meeting.

The forum was council's chance to advise the community that following their own study, with the expertise of Gary Blumberg, Pat Lawless and James Carley, they have come up with two options, a seawall and planned retreat, that they feel would best suit Old Bar and would be the most immediate and efficient solution.

Following the community information forum, an invitation was extended to the community to view the presentation at taree.cc/seawall if they were unable to attend the forum and to read the relevant documentation, and after considering that, to provide feedback to council at the taree.cc/oldbarsurvey online survey.

"We know that some will wish to provide feedback in other formats," continued Ms Black.

"We are encouraging participation through this survey as there is particular information that we require in order to inform decision-making.

"Due to the short turn-around in providing this information to councillors and the State, the online survey also provides opportunity for electronic collation and analysis of all responses that receipt in other formats will not provide.

"We simply cannot guarantee that feedback received in other formats will be processed in time for consideration."

However OBBSRG has also slammed the online survey and claims it doesn't allow people to offer their own thoughts if they are against council's two preferred options.

Greater Taree City Council was asked by the State Government to submit proposals for beach erosion mitigation.

However past discussions with council staff suggested there was no guarantee a sea wall would receive government funding - it's estimated it would cost about $9 million for the first stage alone.

The OBBSRG has vowed to continue its fight for an offshore reef, that would cost $3 million.