Paradoxically, members of BeachCare Kiama believe that measures put in place to stabilise Jones Beach after major storms in 1974 are now responsible for a litany of on-going problems.
“Time has shown the solution was well-intention-ed but ill-informed,” says Anthony Hourigan, a senior member of the Kiama Downs Surf Lifesaving Club.
He says wrong plants were used, their growth wasn’t monitored, and the whole beach has suffered.
“Now when we are setting up our patrol at the northern end of the beach it is probably a good six or eight foot lower than it was just three years ago because of what has happened here.
“The big surf has dragged all that sand out to sea as the vegetation has gotten closer and closer to the waves. If you stand there at the northern end, you can just see the tip of the Club roof.
“It is now a much more dangerous beach to swim at, with flash rips a huge problem, while at the same time the vegetation has blocked off the Surf Club’s view of the length of the beach.”
Julie Hume, who uses the beach every day, shares his concerns.
“If nothing is done, we will be locked into an irreversible cycle of erosion. It was once a really great surfing and swimming beach, and it can be remediated back to good health.
“In the last storm in June there was a lot of scarping (where cliffs are formed when the vegetation holds onto the sand). People say that is a normal process, but it is the reason the beach is shrinking.
“We know the sand dunes play a vital role in the health of a beach, and we believe the uncontrolled vegetation is impacting negatively on the area.
“We are about trying to rehabilitate and restore the dune system.
“If we get rid of the weeds and the inappropriate vegetation, if we cull back the overgrowth and have foredunes planted with spinifex, then we can replant with more appropriate species.”
The group is lobbying Council to leverage off the work already done by Wollongong Council on its northern beaches.
Woonona Beach, which was suffering similar problems to Jones Beach, has been vastly improved with new dune management. Work is now being implemented on five other beaches.
The group hopes that once suitable investigations have been made, the Plan of Management can be amended to reflect the new philosophy. The dunes are Crown Land, managed by Council.
“We have someone who is prepared to be the Landcare coordinator for the area, and there are plenty of people who love the beach who will help,” says Julie. “The Plan will help us apply for any necessary funding.”
Councillor Mark Way says he is championing the cause for a simple reason, “If we don’t fix it, we won’t have a beach.”
Similar erosion problems are being experienced at Werri Beach.