NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay has slammed the Berejiklian Government for its failure to act on the worsening erosion crisis at Stockton Beach – saying immediate steps are needed before the seaside community washes away.
The call comes as it can be revealed that three separate grant applications from Newcastle City Council for emergency sand nourishment by truck remain ignored by the Minister.
On a visit to Stockton today, joined by Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp, Ms McKay questioned why the Government has failed to take any steps to overturn the ban on offshore marine dredging that could help solve the crisis.
Labor has been pressing the Government for this action since last October.
Under the Offshore Minerals Act 1999, the Berejiklian Government holds the power to release and invite applications for an area to be mined for sand to replenish beaches.
In response to a Question on Notice from Mr Crakanthorp in 2018, the Government said there were “no current plans” to release any areas for mining licenses. In October 2019, Deputy Premier John Barilaro stated “this regime has not been implemented since the Act was created and legislative changes may be required to support or improve the regime before it is used”.
The City of Newcastle also wrote to Mr Barilaro on December 9 requesting the ban be lifted.
Offshore dredging has been used successfully to combat erosion on the Gold Coast in Queensland and in other nations such as The Netherlands.
“The Berejiklian Government has twiddled its thumbs over summer while Stockton Beach slowly disappears,” Ms McKay said.
“Labor supports any necessary redrafting of existing laws to allow offshore marine dredging for the purposes of beach nourishment – subject to all other environmental and regulatory approvals being met.
“This is a sensible solution the community is calling for. The ball is in the Berejiklian Government’s court – shame on them for just doing nothing.”
Today’s visit by Ms McKay comes in the wake of more severe weather and large swells. Parts of the local caravan park were last week relocated in an emergency operation after savage storms stripped tonnes of sand from the already heavily eroded foreshore.
The Government finally declared Newcastle a natural disaster – but only after calls from Ms McKay and the City of Newcastle.
“People here feel they are on borrowed time. They are living in fear of the next major weather event. The Berejiklian Government promised to address this and they haven’t – and the Premier hasn’t even bothered to visit,” Ms McKay said.
“The Government's neglect of one of Newcastle's beloved beaches is unacceptable and it would not be allowed to happen at Bondi or Manly.”
In September, Ms McKay visited the community with Mr Crakanthorp and demanded the Government:
- Immediately appoint a State Recovery Coordinator to manage a whole of government response to the erosion crisis at Stockton,
- Direct the Coordinator to urgently assist City of Newcastle with repairs, stabilisation and beach replenishment works to protect Stockton and save the beach.
- Work collaboratively with the City of Newcastle, the community and business to expedite the Coastal Management Program, for completion and adoption by the end of the year, to address long term erosion in Stockton.
The Government ignored Labor’s call and instead the Minister for Local Government committed to finding a long-term solution by the end of 2019. Disappointingly, the Minister failed to meet this deadline.
Mr Crakanthorp said a long-term solution is needed before it’s too late.
“The childcare centre has already been lost and now the Caravan Park is at risk. Residents are crying out for help because their community is quite literally washing away,” Mr Crakanthorp said.
City of Newcastle previously won funding from the State Government for emergency sand nourishment by truck in front of the Stockton Surf Lifesaving Club and Lexie’s Café. Whilst this provided a short term solution over summer the sand is now gone and the shoreline has further retreated.
However despite the beach being listed as an open coast location (erosion hotspot), which means the State Government is able to fast-track applications for funding, there are still three outstanding grant applications from Newcastle City Council that the Minister is yet to approve.
• $498,000 requested for coastal protection works at the southern end of Griffith Avenue and Stone Street, Stockton;
• An additional $240,000 for beach nourishment along the southern part of Stockton Beach; and
• $140,000 requested for additional resourcing for City of Newcastle Coastal Management Program.