Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

January 16th 2009
Councillors inspect storm damage

The Councillors amid the damage Following the near cyclonic storm which struck Magnetic Island earlier this week on top of huge tides, Townsville City Councillors, David Crisafulli, Vern Veitch and Trevor Roberts came to Magnetic today to inspect damage and talk to locals.

The councillor's first meeting was with a group of concerned Islanders at one of the hardest hit locations: Nelly Bay beach, which has suffered tremendous losses of sand with the undermining of the Casuarina trees along the foreshore to levels previously not seen. Metres of foreshore dune has simply vanished and the sight is both stark and sad.

Deputy Mayor David Crisafulli (centre)
listens to the locals at the meeting

The meeting consisted of locals, most of whom live on the Esplanade or nearby.

Deputy Mayor, David Crisafulli and Cr Vern Veitch answered many questions concerning what could and could not be done about the alarming progress the sea was making. It was quickly pointed out that Council is powerless to conduct any sort of work on the beach, which is state Marine Park, without the State's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval.

There were strenuous calls for rock walls to be built to protect the Esplanade from further intrusions but this was countered by Cr Veitch who claimed that rock walls actually contribute to beach erosion.

Councillors vern Veitch and Trevor Roberts
at the beach meeting

It was however revealed that a beach erosion study was underway and, at first, it was thought that the study's finding could be tabled at the next meeting of the Council committee in February. This could inform a proper, long-term, approach to the beach's remediation. A quick call back to Council by David Crisafulli to clarify the study's progress revealled, however, that Council and the EPA had differed over how much detail the study required. Subsequently, and the look on Cr Crisafulli's face seemed to say it all, the study was only now about to be commissioned.

Cr Veitch explained that, EPA willing, it might be useful to try what amount to "sand sausages" being set in the shallows along the beach. These are made of geotech fabric with sand pumped inside. They are, according to Vern Veitch, a soft barrier and could allow sand to build up around them. Cr Veitch ultimately favours a sloping sandy beach as the best way to absorb the energy produced by the waves.

Cr Vern Veitch photographs some of the
storm-damaged foreshore

In the short term however, the Councillors promised to have the dead trees along the beach removed and listened to calls from a local excavator operator to move sand, from the sand trap above the Sooning Street bridge on Gustav Creek, to the beach. This accompanied complaints that sand from the trap was being dumped elsewhere. While the councillors on hand seemed unaware of the practice Magnetic Times understands that this was done because the sand has a high nutrient level - filtering upstream septics - and would further threaten nutrient-sensitive corals offshore.

Perhaps the strongest message to emerge was that the Queensland Government had declared Townsville and Magnetic a Natural Disaster Area which frees up funding from the state. The councillors were also pointing out that there is an election this year and that it was a very good time to call for state help and that residents should lobby Member for Townsville, Mike Reynolds, to not forget Magnetic Island.

Magnetic Island's designated Councillor, the recently elected, Trevor Roberts, made few contributions but listened carefully and no doubt will have lots to consider as he climbs the steep curve of learning that comes with representing Magnetic Island.

To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below

Councillors inspect storm damage
January 16th 2009
Very pleased to hear that the visiting councillors were able to see first-hand what is happening at the Esplanade and relieved that they won't be grabbing the first dollar available to be seen "doing something". Each year an enormous amount of money is expended digging out sand from under the Constitution Bridge at Nelly Bay and carting it up the beach to satisfy the demands of the Commonwealth Government (through the GBR Marine Park Authority) that the breakwater island be separated from the 'mainland' of Magnetic Island and that water flow under the bridge at low tide. Whilst this legal contrivance might have had some meaning in 1988 (or so) when it was so cleverly devised, it has clearly outlived its function and something much more sustainable needs to be found.
I implore local residents, the Council and the Queensland Government to cast the sustainable solutions net wide - including GBRMPA, AIMS and some constitutional lawyers - before excavating another shovel of "remediation" sand or laying the foundation stone of a rockwall from that bridge to......well, to X-Base I s'pose. I mean, once you've started, where do you stop?
I notice in the TBully today that some residents at Bushland Beach are blaming Council for a perceived failure to pump sand onto their coast. On 9 February 2009, when we get a 4.10m tide, the highest ever, the blame game will move up and down the coast like wildfire. We have to find another way of dealing with this consequence.
January 17th 2009
From the point of view of a marine science professor at USC, there is no real solution other than to move to higher ground. As the seas rise, the temps warm, the result is stronger winds. These are not going to stay the same, or get any better...the stark reality is, these buildings on the foreshore are going to have to either build their land up and raise their buildings, or accept they may join the tap and rubbish bins in the ocean in a few more years.
However, the idea of diverting or slowing waves down from the sea has worked in some places.
The road to Picnic Bay will definitely need raising eventually, unless Picnic Bay is to become a separate township and ferry terminal. I am talking down the line a little, but keep in mind, this was NOT a full-blown cyclone and we can surely expect to get one or two of these in future...what will you do then??? Situations change, and attitudes have to change with them.
Hard surfaces, as Cr. Veitch correctly advised, create erosive Nelly Bay. Not an option for success.
January 17th 2009
Should we be putting sand where nature doesn't want it? Is Nelly Bay beach man made? If not, what has happened for it to be now eroded? Is it something to do with rock walls up at Nelly Bay harbour?
January 17th 2009
Not sure how this comment will 'fit' but I have always thought the Nelly Bay beach needed many more planting of shade trees which in themselves should assist holding sand - a few sporadic trees trying to survive is not the best way forward. Plant more trees - the more the better; which apart from anything else will make walking along the beach right up to where X-Base is a very pleasant promenade.
January 18th 2009
Concerned, it is extremely unlikely that planted trees can "hold" a foredune in place when sea levels are rising. A beach is a dynamic shock absorber - moving and changing constantly while it seems to stay the same. But Nelly Bay beach is also no longer a 'natural' beach. The rockwall around the harbour and mouth of Gustav Creek encloses the place where the last 500m of natural beach once was.
A second effect of the rock breakwall (built in 1989/90) seems to be a change in the hydrodynamics of the tidal currents in the shallow waters of the bay and the way that very low energy wave patterns move the sand across the reef flat and along the beach - mainly towards the harbour. Aerial photos from the 1980s suggest that although a change in beach shape took place in the first part of the 1990s it seemed to stabilise until the bridge was built and the sand constantly disturbed from about 2001. This change to the hydrodynamics is probably quite separate from and perhaps combining with changes in sea level (ie maximum tide levels) and the impact of natural events like storms and cyclones.
The recent serious changes to the shape of the beach in the 200-300 metres from the bridge along the Esplanade are, I believe, related strongly to the shape of the breakwall which has the effect of widening Bright Point where it protrudes into the currents thus changing the hydrodynamics, and the constant disturbance of the sand at the bridge which means it can no longer stabilise. Issues of the road being overtopped up towards X-Base are a different matter, even if they are occurring only a few hundred metres further away.
January 18th 2009
The question on putting sand where nature doesn;t want it...should we put rock walls where nature doesn't plan them??
Obviously, planting trees is not the answer as they take a very long time to grow to a suitable height and root expanse, and would be demolished by the next big storm. This should have ben done many years ago if it were to have an impact. You only have to see the size of the trees that have been uprooted and how large and dense their root systems are to see what I mean. It has been too little too late. Any rock wall or hard surface creates erosion on one side and siltation on the other. Check out the entrance to Townsville port next time on way to city...the eroded side is that of the port, the silted side is that of the yachting berth lagoon. As for trees, maybe placing fully-grown trees relocated from elsewhere in the interim may reduce damage a little, or planting of mangroves...but just grabbing at straws really. sorry):
January 21st 2009
I take note of everyone's comments and concede I know very little about the dynamics of it all BUT more trees would be so very much appreciated and it will be a pity if more cannot be planted, for both shade and aesthetics.
January 21st 2009
It's a reasonable (if ambit) aspiration, concerned, but the place - right there on the Esplanade where the trees have fallen down - is surely not the place where we should try to plant trees right now. Along a bit, say from the little creek mouth past the old helipad right up to X-Base maybe, is quite a possibility because we can see from events in the recent past that although the high tide ran up over the dune it wasn't an eroding action and the beach is still intact there - even without trees binding the foredune. The lesson down nearer the harbour seems to be that something is way out of kilter there. We should try to find out what is out of kilter and how to get it back 'into kilter' before wasting our energy and resources on a pointless tree planting exercise.
But how can this process be initiated and supported if the government agencies in whose bailiwick the reef, beach and foreshore lies continue to look the other way? Personally, I don't think it's Townsville City's responsibility - even if the Esplanade is a Council street. I think the ball lies in the harbour and that's between GBRMPA and Queensland Transport. We should insist on those agencies aiming their attention squarely on the problem and searching for a solution. Anything less is irresponsible and a waste of time and money.

What do you think? Send us your comments.

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