Coastal Erosion

I’m very pleased this issue has been raised by one of the candidates because, as someone who has lived in Geraldton for pretty much all of my life, it is something near and dear to my heart too.

Coastal erosion is a problem for local government’s right up and down the West Australian coast from Busselton to Kalbarri and has been an issue for many years. With the known increase in sea levels, this will continue as time advances so we need to be “on top” of the issue.

There are a number of areas within the City of Greater Geraldton where erosion has been taking place over an extended period of time, for example, in the Grey’s Bay area, which is on the south side of the Geraldton peninsular. Some of the longer term residents of the area would be aware Willcock Drive has actually been moved back from the ocean three times in the past 50 years. Previous Councils have chosen to adopt the strategy of moving the road back because of the enormous cost of using hard infrastructure to protect the beach. 

Archived photographs of the Back Beach area show the beach has actually grown in width as has the area between the Fisherman’s Wharf and Pages Beach.

Specialist coastal engineers tell us most of the beaches north of the Batavia Coast Marina are eroding because the Port Breakwater and the Marina are blocking the natural movement of sand which normally travels from south to north. Unfortunately Geraldton is an Industrial Port City so we need to deal with the issue. It is clear the Port and the Department of Transport (owner of the Marina) have a responsibility to assist with the cost of rectifying the Northern Beaches erosion because their structures are the primary cause of the erosion problems.

Some two and a half years ago I became frustrated that we were making no progress with the Department of Transport (DOT) and the Midwest Ports Authority (MPA) in getting them to address the issues of erosion on the northern beaches and wrote to the then Minister of Transport, Troy Buswell, to make him aware of my frustrations. As the result of my letter the Minister appointed a senior person from the DOT to lead a team consisting of the DOT, MPA and the City to find an acceptable solution to this vexing problem. This group has an engineer from each and has sought the advice of a specialist coastal engineering firm and is now at the point where a designed solution for the area from the Marina Bay through to St Georges Beach is all but complete. The next phase will see us negotiating with the DOT and the MPA to provide the necessary funding. Some funding has already been sourced from the Royalties for Regions program but much more will be required. I expect the DOT and the MPA will provide the bulk of the funding as it is their structures which have caused the erosion.

Many ratepayers ask why we continue to have to sand nourish in the Midalia/Beresford Beach area. As noted above, the Port and Marina block the natural northern movement of sand so this will always be required to ensure the northern beaches continue to be nourished. After this sand is put in place it naturally gravitates northwards. The City has an agreement with the MPA to provide a specific amount of sand each year at no cost to the City. This sand is sourced at Pages Beach where the sand is continually building up. I am told by the MPA, removal of this sand prevents silting of the shipping channel. 

Because there are other areas like Sunset Beach and Drummond Cove where erosion of the beaches is an issue, a future Council will need to make decisions as to whether it commits to spend a great deal of ratepayer’s money to provide further coastal protection or let nature take its course in areas where it is not necessary to protect any infrastructure. This issue is yet to be decided as we are awaiting an engineer’s inundation report which will cover Point Moore to Drummond Cove. It is important that we have the best engineering advice available before we decide on an action plan. I think we should avoid hard infrastructure to protect the coast wherever we can but there may be some areas where it simply may not be possible to avoid it. 

Geraldton is renowned for its beaches, diving, swimming, surfing and other water sports. We need to retain our “Gero feel” for future generations and I have and will continue, if re-elected, to work to make sure we get the best possible outcome for our community

Ian Carpenter.
City of Greater Geraldton