Port Macquarie Breakwall Independent Report Raises Upgrade Questions

Emma Siossian
Swellnet Dispatch

Campaigners against New South Wales Government plans to upgrade a breakwall next to an iconic surf break on the mid north coast say aspects of the project are illegal and unnecessary.

The Transport for NSW project includes rebuilding 600 metres of the breakwall, completing maintenance of the breakwall head, and installing a new five-metre-wide footpath along the majority of the structure's length.

The Save our Breakwall group in Port Macquarie has released a self-funded investigative report into the project.

In it, coastal engineer Angus Gordon suggested only some modest, targeted repair work was needed, but not a major reconstruction.

"The key findings are that the breakwall does need some targeted repair work, but in fact it's in pretty reasonable condition given its age. It's over 130 years old," Mr Gordon said.

The campaign against the work is being led by the town's three-time former world bodyboard champion Damian King.

Mr King said many in the community were questioning the need for a major upgrade, which would involve the removal of mature trees and plans to replace or repurpose some of the iconic memorial breakwall rocks.

There are also fears Town Beach's unique surf break, next to the breakwall, would be impacted. 

Damien King in action at Port Macquarie's breakwall surf break

"We think we have probably the most iconic and recognised breakwall in the world. It's something everyone gets drawn to," Mr King said.

"It has 139 memorial rocks, beautiful Norfolk Pines, 29 trees, it has the surf break."

Mr Gordon said the breakwall was inspected in detail 30 years ago and those inspection reports showed that although it had deteriorated a small amount it was nowhere near something that should be a concern.

"When you look at that [historical information] you can get a much better understanding of how the breakwall behaves and what condition it is in," he said.

A Transport for NSW spokesperson said, however, that there was a need for major repair work to the southern breakwall.

"The two engineering reports we have commissioned, by Manly Hydraulics and Royal Haskoning DHV, both confirm the need to repair the Southern Breakwall," the spokesperson said.

"The rock has settled and shifted over time creating voids which compromise its effectiveness."

The breakwall is known for its colourful rock art which will be removed for the planned upgrade (Photo: Emma Siossian)

Development application questions

Mr King said the independent assessment process had also highlighted that a Development Application (DA) was required for the planned major upgrade and there was not one currently in place.

"One of the biggest things we found during the process was that under the NSW Coastal Management Act and the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) this project is required to have a Development Application," Mr King said.

"You are allowed to repair and maintain existing structures like the breakwall, but you aren't allowed to reconstruct or upgrade — which is what's proposed."

Mr King said moving forward with full reconstruction would be "illegal".

A crowd turned out to an earlier consultation session about the Port Macquarie breakwall upgrade (Photo: Damian King)

However, Transport for NSW said a DA was not required.

"A clause of the SEPP provides that development for the purposes of 'navigation and emergency response facilities' carried out by or on behalf of a public authority is permitted without consent on any land," the spokesperson said.

"The breakwater upgrade has been assessed appropriately under ... the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act. A Part 4 Development consent from council is not required."

View over the iconic breakwall at Port Macquarie (Photo: Emma Siossian)

The Port Macquarie Hastings Council said it was a matter for Transport for NSW as the project owner.

Mr King said the Save our Breakwall group would not shy away from taking potential action in the Land and Environment Court.

© Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


Robwilliams's picture
Robwilliams's picture
Robwilliams Monday, 6 Mar 2023 at 12:21pm

Go port mac, On ya Kingy and others for stepping up, some times you gotta wonder how and why when in regards to a communities best interests. Get behind those that support or speak for you and your local areas regardless of issues being surf related or not. It can't happen or be challenged if no one takes it on board. Often with a huge amount of volunteered hours whilst conducting the normalities of everyday life. Go port Mac.

Im sure the money and development is needed greatly in the other areas of the northern rivers at the moment. Can we go back to proper consultation and community improvements please? Why are so many of these projects rolled out with out integrity or practicality of common sense in regard to the situational evidence which is so often ignored on so many of these community projects? Both environmentally and community based.

So many other areas are in desperate need of attention right now, why throw tax payers money at a structure that is somewhat pretty good? Idiocy at it's finest from the top down, when they don't really need this and it so often goes against a communities best interest's time and time again. Port Mac is facing a large project that hasn't been well delivered or thought out from those responsible or at financial benefit.

Keep calling it out and go Port Mac or other communities being delivered this swill. Otherwise the powers to be will continue to rape and pillage for little community gain, time and time again. Step up and no I am not against well thought out community planning or development, just asking and supporting those that ask can we and should we be doing it better? And if not why not?

Does practical common sense mean anything from those who are in charge of implementing and delivering in various communities best interests from the positions they hold? And if not why should communities be expected to be shortchanged of tax payer money for little benefit or community reward when it's not in there's or others best interests?

We can do better, but as so often seen, it comes from the top down, often with little regard for the communities best interests at hand, surfing or not. Sometimes you got to ask why? And get behind those that do. Because when the horse has bolted it's gone. Wake up Australia.

note: Kingy if you get a look at swellnet, don't know if you do. But what you have done to represent your community on this issue is greater than any of of the world titles or charging of your past. Still Leading from the front when it counts. And ain't that what it's about, whatever the outcome. You've done a good job. Put it on the line as you always have. epic

Panman's picture
Panman's picture
Panman Monday, 6 Mar 2023 at 12:13pm

Main priority up that way I would’ve thought was to spend money fixing the local roads

Elliedog's picture
Elliedog's picture
Elliedog Monday, 6 Mar 2023 at 4:06pm

Good onya mate... can't stand spending taxpayers $$$$$$ for the sake of it.

Ricko2526's picture
Ricko2526's picture
Ricko2526 Monday, 6 Mar 2023 at 4:15pm

Even if a DA is not required, the relevant minister would still have 'call in' powers to require one be submitted - find the relevant minister and apply pressure

Optimist's picture
Optimist's picture
Optimist Monday, 6 Mar 2023 at 6:31pm

Hey let’s spend a lot of money on things that don’t need fixing.

No mal half a quiver's picture
No mal half a quiver's picture
No mal half a quiver Tuesday, 7 Mar 2023 at 9:33am

Probably some truth to it they upgraded CH break wall, waves are worse and half beach is gone. Until reading this I just put it down to not enough carbon fibre on the rails.
Poor waves only effect surfers
Cutting down all the shade trees and make the beach inaccessible, environmental rape.

Distracted's picture
Distracted's picture
Distracted Tuesday, 7 Mar 2023 at 8:42pm

I think it is pretty crap that surfing is being used as an excuse to launch the political career of the new National Party candidate for Port Macquarie in the upcoming state election.

For those that haven’t read the design report it describes how the head of the breakwall has been damaged and it is proposed to patch the voids that have formed with individual rocks so that the profile matches previous repair works undertaken in 2015. So the head will be the same shape as in 2015…. was there a problem with the surf break in 2015 or the subsequent years?

The other part of the works is the repairs to the breakwall in the river. Page 8 of the report has a pretty picture showing how the river wall shape has changed and what needs to be fixed. Other works include the footpath upgrade and taking down some trees. Whether the works on the river breakwall are needed or approved can be debated, but at the end of the day, those works in the river, are away from the actual head of the breakwall, where they are not going to impact the surf.

Report can be found in documents section of following link:

Queef Jerky's picture
Queef Jerky's picture
Queef Jerky Thursday, 9 Mar 2023 at 3:45pm

I'm glad you linked reliable sources Distracted. The plan shows minimal changes to Kingy's 'favourite breakwall' ('quoted' because it's an inconsistent rip bowl at the best of times) unless they change the specific rock he likes to get wedges from!

This image shows that construction will be along the holiday park, with a few boulder re/placements on the head of the wall. The skeptic in me thinks removal of 100yr/o Norfolk Pines is unnecessary; but removing huge old trees will help future liability or insurance bullsh*t. It's sad to see the huge old beachfront pines go! Your grandkids will go to south coast to see them irl!

While I agree TransportNSW could well spend money elsewhere, it's rare to get funding for a breakwall. I think they should take it while it's available! The study money is already spent!
I accidentally drove into Pt Mac a few months ago on my travels, from the south on an early weekday morning. Based on that type of traffic It's a small city! A set of roundabout lights at the freeway interchange, and 10,000 less people living in Port Mac, would make it a place I'd visit again.