IF ANYONE who went to the first Community Plus forum at Inverloch hoped to leave with a better idea of whether Surf Parade – and other parts of their town – could fall into the ocean in coming decades, they would have left disappointed.
However, whilst there were no concrete predictions from special guest speaker, geomorphologist and associate professor David Kennedy, the 80-plus ratepayers who crammed shoulder-to-shoulder into the Inverloch Hub’s small meeting room could at least agree they learned quite a lot about that most crucial of beach elements – sand.
Dr Kennedy readily admitted that he couldn’t speak about Inverloch’s disappearing sand in particular, but he was able to speak about the nature of shifting sands in a broader context, using plenty of examples of beaches from around the country.
He understood the anxiety surrounding the current status of the Inverloch Surf Beach tower, which authorities are desperately sand-bagging the base of in an effort to prevent the structure from collapsing.
So why has the sand vanished and where did it go?
According to Dr Kennedy, the sand hasn’t vanished – it just circulated elsewhere.
He said waves are the driving force behind sand movement, either laterally across beaches or alternating between onshore and offshore deposits (sand bars).
A simple explanation for erosion, other than rising sea levels, he explained, is that the sand was simply “needed elsewhere”.
“Beaches are very dynamic,” he explained.
“A sandy beach stays in much the same position, even though it’s composed of loose sand.
“Beaches are always adjusting, shifting and changing shape.
“If you go down to your favourite surf beach, you’ll see the bars are not always in the same spot and rips have moved.
“That’s the process of the sand moving in response to wave energy.”
So if a massive amount of sand has been washed away from beneath the surf tower, will it get worse?
Not necessarily, Dr Kennedy said.
In fact, there’s a chance it could come back.
He used one beach on the south coast of New South Wales as an example, where records of sand movement have been documented since 1972 – longer than any other beach in Australia.
When a major storm hit this beach in 1974 and caused a huge erosion event, the sand returned and reformed dune profiles after nine years.
Unfortunately, detailed data on sand movement around Victorian beaches over recent decades is limited.
Dr Kennedy says there’s one interesting and unique aspect of Victorian coastlines – there’s not that much sand to begin with.
He pointed out Eagle’s Nest at Inverloch as a prime example of a beach mostly covered by an expansive rocky shelf, leaving only a veneer of sand that barely moves.
Path in limbo
Cr Jordan Crugnale organised the meeting as a way to further inform the community on a council decision to delay construction of the Surf Parade pathway until there’s further investigation into the impact it could have on the coastal environment.
The decision was a contentious one, with many wishing the councuil would just get on with the job.
Here are a few of the comments from the floor during the brief ‘feedback’ session during last week’s meeting, with several pointing out the inadequacy of the recently installed ‘traffic calming’ measures on Surf Parade:
• “Surf Parade, as it is now, is a potential hazard. The danger has escalated with the chicanes. The danger has gone through the roof.”
• “We haven’t got unlimited funds to spend on (further path research). We can’t keep spending money to get this path done.”
• “There is a real risk to life and limb over the Christmas period if those chicanes are still in place.”
• “We need to think about the safety of kids and surfers without the path. There’s nowhere to walk but on the road.”
Another ratepayer, June, handed over her own map of an alternative path solution.
She believed it should be built at least one street back from Surf Parade and meander along Lohr Avenue.
Another Community Plus forum at Inverloch is scheduled for August.