A large amount of coastal vegetation has been torn out by wave action and deposited along the surf beach at Inverloch in the past week. Local environment experts say it’s cyclical but they have also urged scrupulous protection of the dunes as the primary barrier to inundation by the sea. m193214
STORM surges, high tides and parallel wave action continued to cut a swathe through the vegetation along Inverloch’s popular surf beach last week, uprooting hundreds of trees again and forcing the closure of several beach access tracks.
It was the second week in a row that council works crews had to close, then open and then close the tracks again as relentless wave action tore at the vegetation binding the protective sand barrier together.
This time however, it was noticeable that the waves had flooded through to areas of the dunes that have remained unaffected for 20 to 30 years and left locals wondering how far it might go.
President of the South Gippsland Conservation Society, and nearby resident, Dave Sutton believes the shifting sands are part of a 17 to 20 year cycle but he is concerned about the impact climate change and sea level rise might have on the severity of that cycle.
He says the ongoing protection of the sand dunes should be paramount in the thinking of foreshore managers, which is why his association would have grave concerns if a proposed footpath and bike track along Surf Parade involved the cutting back of dune vegetation.
“The primary sand dune is the only thing keeping the sea out and we’ve got to look after it,” Mr Sutton said this week.
“Which is why we have major concerns about plans for a footpath and cycle path along Surf Parade.
“We are concerned this could involve plans to cut back on some of the vegetation in the coastal reserve and we believe this could have an extremely serious outcome.
“We should be protecting the vegetation we have, and over time, planting some more to support the dunes.”
Mr Sutton is also against the removal of fallen scrub from the beach as he says it dissipates the wave action.
He said the movement of the sand was a symptom of this being a very active part of the coast but he hopes the established cycle will continue.
“I’ve been coming here since the 70s and I don’t think I’ve seen the build-up of sand we are seeing now at Norman Point. It’s quite extraordinary.”
The sand that is being washed off the surf beach is being deposited at the end of the surf beach, completely closing the former entrance to the inlet, with the main entrance now across on the Point Smythe side.
“It’s supposed to be a 17 to 20 year cycle although we don’t know what the effects of climate change and sea level rise will be.”
Mr Sutton said he recalls about 25 years ago that there was some concern that the sea would break through to the road (Surf Parade) but it never happened.
“The vegetation which is coming down now would date from that time 20 to 25 years ago. You’ll notice the vegetation closer to the road is a lot older, because the sea didn’t make it that far.”
Instead of cutting down foreshore vegetation to make way for a pedestrian and cycling path, Mr Sutton said the shire should consider closing Surf Parade to two-way traffic and making it one way with the new pathway being established in the existing road reserve.
He said they could also establish a bike path utilising Lohr Avenue and paths back away from the foreshore.
“I’m not sure what the opposition is to making it one way, possibly involving access by emergency vehicles.
“I can’t see that. Going around only takes an extra few minutes and besides, they’ve got sirens and flashing lights; go up the wrong way if necessary.
“We’ve been pushing the one-way option for years.”
The Bass Coast Shire Council is also of the opinion that the present erosion is cyclical but it will continue to monitor the sea’s encroachment.
“Council’s long term management plan is to work with the natural coastal processes. The erosion and deposition of sand that occurs along this area is cyclical and will always be changing.
“There is a buffer of remnant coastal vegetation between the shoreline and public assets and infrastructure at the surf beach which protects the built infrastructure (roads, footpaths etc.) from damage.
“Council will continue to monitor and undertake regular asset inspections with works undertaken on a risk-based approach.”
Inverloch path for safety
MEMBERS of the Inverloch Tourism Association, the town’s main business organisation, has also been watching the massive shift in sand with interest.
But have also accepted that it is natural occurrence.
“It’s nature, you can’t do much about it,” said the tourism group’s president Dom Brusamarello.
But he doesn’t believe the threat to the dune system should stop the proposed surf beach footpath from going ahead.
In fact he see it as a necessity.
“Over the summer, a survey was carried out looking at the amount of traffic that uses Surf Parade and it was quite a high figure.
“Our concern is for the kids and families that walk in the area, especially over the summer, going to the beach.
“We have said for a long time that a pathway is needed but as for how it is delivered, the association hasn’t discussed that yet.
“Clearly there are important environmental considerations but it is a visitor destination and we have to provide safe access for both visitors and locals alike.
“Mr Brusamarello said the vision was for a footpath and cycle track that initially went as far as the surf club and then, ultimately to the RACV Resort.
“But, at the moment, they are just working it up as a project to seek grant money for. Hopefully the community will get its chance for some input at a later date.”
He said the ‘Pathways Group’, a subcommittee of the Inverloch Community Planning group, came up with the idea and it had attracted general and enthusiastic support.
In time, he said the footpath and associated infrastructure could serve as a barrier until there was a change in the cycle of erosion on the beach.