Jetty storm damage links with climate change ports report
DUNAL sand erosion and storm damage suffered around Coffs Harbour Jetty during recent bouts of wild weather is stark evidence of findings in an important climate change report.
Enhancing The Resilience Of Seaports To A Changing Climate has been co-authored by Drs Darryn McEvoy and Jane Mullett and published by the National Climate Change Adaption Research Facility (see source note below).
With frequent calls for Coffs Harbour to again become an import-export hub or a port of call for cruise ships, the NCCARF report declares a need to address the future challenges of rising sea levels and beach erosion.
But as has been the case for decades, any attempt to tackle the future is handcuffed to the present - and the ongoing Jetty Foreshores discussions.
Despite the protection of breakwaters both sides of the entry, storm surge damage through January and February caused widespread erosion to sand banks between the Yacht Club and Jetty pier.
It was a major talking point as residents gathered for the February 17 unveiling of Jetty Foreshores revitalisation plans at Harbourside Markets.
Long term local resident Michele Dombroski attended to hear what environmental protection ideas were on offer and said she had taken numerous photographs which were later forwarded to The Coffs Coast Advocate.
"I took the photos on a wet and windy walk one Saturday morning and was amazed at the devastation," she said.
"I feel that it would be a mistake to take out the casuarinas as I think they may have held the bank at the northern end.
"It could have been much worse, especially with a creek running through the middle, which is not normally obvious.
"The Yacht Club surrounds have not had good vegetation there to help with erosion and it has gradually been eroding.
"The small rocks there did not help at all and any concrete has had holes created underneath it.
"Anyway, I suppose it was a big deluge, but are we likely to have more in the years to come?"
Yacht Club Commodore Garry Innes said the answer to that question is "yes."
Speaking as a club director (rather than a Coffs Harbour City councillor), Innes agrees future wild weather events are inevitable and believes adoption of at least one of the "stakeholder' ideas for the Jetty will lessen the damage.
"Erosion is a real problem but we can tackle that by planting the right sort of trees and vegetation to hold the sand dunes together," he said.
"However, the biggest problem for every leaseholder here, including the Yacht Club, remains security of tenure.
"We only have four more years on our lease and yes, I saw the damage along the shore behind the clubhouse.
"There's always talk of the club building retaining walls or creating other protections along the water line.
"But without long term security, there's little we can do and I reckon if we went in and asked for a loan the bank manager would laugh at us."
Innes wasn't asked to speculate on the pros and cons of climate change affecting the Jetty or the East Coast in general but he doesn't believe storms worse than those of recent times are likely.
"I know what I know as a sailor but it's the advice of fishers I'm happy to back," he added.
"They swear local waters are too cold for a real big blow or a cyclone or anything like that to come this far south.
"So I doubt we'll ever see anything worse than what's been here lately."
The National Climate Change Adaption Research Facility is a partnership between the Federal Government's Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and Griffith University, with a consortium of funding partners drawn from across the country.
These include the Queensland Government, James Cook University, Macquarie University, Murdoch University, Queensland University of Technology, University of Newcastle, University of Southern Queensland, University of the Sunshine Coast and a 10-member advisory board of overseers and guides.