Clearing the channels with Bruce McLachlan
In 2018, following two years of drought, the entrance to Brisbane Water on the NSW Central Coast began to silt up. Without flooding rain the boat channel narrowed to the point of being dangerous for ferries and recreational boats. Residents complained to council and NSW Maritime to dredge the channel; remove the sand accumulated between Umina and the eastern shoreline.
That sand, however, forms the basis to Box Head, one of the best waves on the Central Coast and one of the longest in Australia.
Bruce McLachlan, an independent Councillor from The Entrance, saw the dredging plans and was concerned the dredging would ruin The Box. So McLachlan injected himself into the debate, which at time was rife with party politics, cutting through the partisan charade with amendments focussed squarely on protection of the wave.
“In my amendments I wanted them to consider where they were going to put the spoil," McLachlan said to Coast Community News in July 2018. Part of the bank would have to be dredged, but rather than lose the sand altogether, McLachlan wanted it placed on the bank but further down the line.
“My amendments were about consideration and enhancement of the surf break at The Box."
Using the same rationale, McLachlan then broadened his scope across the whole council area, "I just want the surf break to be a consideration in all our future plans, whether it is rock groynes, or even artificial reefs and enhancements of what we have got. We build all sorts of other sporting arenas and I think surf breaks are our sleeping giants."
“It is a natural resource that we don’t want to muck up.”
Much of McLachlan's focus since then has been to train the channel at The Entrance, a tidal channel which connects three lakes - Tuggerah, Budgewoi, and Lake Munmorah - to the sea. Much like the opening to Brisbane Water, the Entrance channel has almost silted up and since 2017 a dredge has been clearing channels on the inland side of the spit.
For guidance, McLachlan looks at projects of similar size. Both Lake Illawarra and Wallis Lake (Forster, Tuncurry) are of similar size and both have training walls that provide safe transit of recreational craft, plus surfing options nearby.
More recently, McLachlan has observed the erosion at Wamberal and insisted Central Coast Council look to the coastal works of the Gold Coast for assistance. At a council meeting last night, McLachlan moved a motion that council, amongst other things, noted the artifical reef at Narrowneck, which has helped widen the beach at the northern end of the Gold Coast, plus the recent Palm Beach artifical reef, installed to do the same thing. Theoretically, a Multi-Purpose Reef constructed off Wamberal could do the same thing, while also potentially creating a new surfing reef.
Also included in the motion was a movement for Central Coast Council to recognise the amenity provided by coastal works in Queensland, plus liase with Gold Coast City Council on their coastal works and share those findings with "relevant State and Federal agencies".
The last point is to enable the opportunity to seek funding for grants.
The wheels of bureaucracy turn painfully slow, and with a new Coastal Management Plan due in 2021, McLachlan is patiently getting his ducks in a row. Council can't go it alone, they'll need funding.
"The main aim of the Notice of Motion," McLachlan told Swellnet, "is to get the concept into the Coastal Management Plan, so they are then eligible for NSW grants funding. If they are not voted to go into the mix, then council can’t apply for grants."
For years, surfers have been outside the decision-making processes that effect the coast, when arguably we're the ones with most at stake. Fortunately, people like Councillor Bruce McLachlan are now inside the tent and making decisions on behalf of surfers.