By Kirra Grimes

WITH coastal erosion progressing at an unprecedented rate, despite recent mitigation efforts like wet sand fencing, residents and holidaymakers at Inverloch can expect to see harder engineering options coming into effect in the next couple of months.

According to Bass Coast Shire Council’s Sustainable Environment Manager Deirdre Griepsma, wet sand fences erected in March 2019 adjacent to the Inverloch Surf Life Saving Club and the Cape Paterson-Inverloch Road (locally known as Bunurong Road) and damaged in recent storm events will be re-established using a more robust design, and rock walls and sand-filled geotextile bags will be also installed in a bid to protect this at-risk public infrastructure.

Ms Griepsma explained, at a drop-in information session at the Inverloch Community Hub last Friday, that the thresholds set by Council 18 months ago, including the minimum distance between the erosion and the Bunurong Road, had been passed, and a “change in thinking” was required.

The soon-to-be-introduced rock wall and geo textile bags are themselves being treated as “intermediate solutions” while the interagency Inverloch Coastal Protection Working Group (a collaboration between DELWP, Parks Victoria, Bass Coast Shire Council, Regional Roads Victoria, and the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority) looks into “long term strategic work,” including establishing further partnerships under the Marine and Coastal Act.

“We need funding and dedicated resources to pull all the data together on sand movement, sea level rise, and weather patterns, to find the best long-term solutions, based on scientific evidence,” Ms Griepsma said.

She stressed that Council was doing its best to inform the community and alleviate their concerns about losing the beach they love so much.

“We’re not waiting for it to become a crisis,” she said.

“We’ve got a plan and we’re implementing it because we know people are concerned about the level of erosion the potential impacts on tourism and the local economy.”

She also confirmed that Inverloch’s coastal erosion “is an effect of climate change” and not simply a natural coastal phenomenon.

“We’re getting more storm surges and we’re seeing erosion at a rate we’ve never seen before,” she said.

Ratepayers seek answers

Over 100 people took the opportunity to have their erosion questions answered by the experts at last Friday’s drop-in session, run by the interagency working group.

Among them were Ashley Warmbrand and partner Megan Goodwin, who’ve owned a holiday house near the end of Ayr Creek for the past 12 years, and have noticed “huge” changes in that time, particularly the last three years.

“There used to be a beautiful beach near our place; now it’s a lake,” said Ashley of his family’s interest in the erosion issue.

“The water used to come in and go out again; now it just sits there. They used to have weddings there; now you can’t even use the beach because it’s all underwater.”

With three kids participating in Inverloch Surf Life Saving Club’s Nippers program each year, Ashley and Megan were genuinely concerned “whether there would be enough beach left” to continue to run the program on the beach where it normally runs.

“We’re concerned about the impact on the surf club,” Ashley said.

“You’ve got 200 kids doing Nippers over summer, and not a lot of beach there.

“We just want to understand what’s happening; we didn’t even know what those poles were at the surf beach – now we’ve found out about the wet sand fence and the other things being done,” he said.

Those who couldn’t make the information session are encouraged to contact DELWP’s Traralgon office on 03 5172 2111 to have their erosion questions answered.