Protecting Our Beach : Protecting Our Lifestyle

The beaches and climate were a fundamental reason I chose to return to Geraldton with my family some 15 years ago. I love our beaches - I walk them, swim, dive and occasionally drive along them; they are key to the lifestyle we enjoy each and every day.

Unfortunately both our climate and coast-line are undergoing change that must be responded to.  How that intervention is managed will be as much about the Gero lifestyle that we want our kids to enjoy, as it will be about cost to the public purse and coastal engineering solutions. 

The role that the Greater Geraldton City Council takes in getting the balance right between what the community desires and expects, the cost and engineering drivers shall be one of its most significant and ongoing challenges it shall face in the years ahead.

Coastal processes are complex and dynamic, and protection against erosion is very expensive. There is no perfect solution and each intervention whether it is a structure, sand renourishment, protection, rehabilitation or just letting nature take its course, has different benefits, impacts and costs.  But the choices made may significantly impact access, amenity, use and vistas along our beachfront that we currently take for granted.

 In my experience in working in local government engineering, planning and management roles, (not just with the Geraldton Foreshore project but with similar issues in localities like Albany and Broome), determination of the appropriate solutions come from a balance of sound coastal engineering/science based on the coastal processes and landscape, cost and understanding just how the community inter-acts with and values the attributes of the beachfront .

We can’t escape the reality that every “solution” has both benefits and negative impacts:

  • groynes tend to hold a beach but often compound  erosion further along and still leave it exposed to storm events;
  • offshore breakwaters offer more storm protection, can create a fishing spot and protected area for younger swimmers and access for walkers, but may increase erosion further along the beachfront;
  • coastal rehabilitation and/or sand renourishment is about the closest intervention we can undertake to replicate nature but has significant ongoing costs, and may not be adequate in areas subject to high erosion or storm impacts
  • rock armour protection can be effective at protecting built assets but limits access and  the reflecting waves tend to carry sand away, leaving little if any beach strip to use and enjoy
  • Retreating and letting nature take its course is ok where there is little threat to property and infrastructure, but rising sea levels may require sacrificing much of our valued coastal reserves

There are many variations to these common responses to coastal erosion and as these problems  are occurring globally we should be looking and learning from the experience of others as we go forward

I am putting up my hand to be your Mayor in the full knowledge that getting the decisions right on these issues in the eyes of the community and within the resources available, will be a tough ask of any on the Council. But the Council’s role will be critical in ensuring the community’s views are very much understood and incorporated into these decisions, and are not subservient to advice and direction of the accountants and engineers alone -those decisions will be as much about the Gero lifestyle our kids will enjoy

Rob Jefferies
Candidate for Mayor City of Greater Geraldton