Stockton Sand Nourishment Begins
In December 2019, following five years of slow erosion at Stockton Beach, Newcastle Council took matters into their own hands. Stumping up $350,000, the council trucked in 5,500 tonnes of sand and dumped it just north of Stockton Beach Holiday Park.
At the time, Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said it was "only a short-term response" and she wasn't wrong. "It lasted about a month. It's all moved offshore now," Stockton local Simon Jones told Swellnet back in February 2020. "The beach down there is the same as it was."
Shortly afterwards, the Stockton Beach Taskforce was established by the NSW government to find a long term solution to the suburb's erosion. You see, prior to 2020, the Stockton beachfront had been slowly yet inexorably retreating, largely in response to dredging of the entrance to the Hunter River. There's no doubt the breakwaters to the Hunter River adversely affected Stockton, however they're over a century old and the coastline immediately north had reached a new equilibrium. More recent changes, such as the channel dredging, was upsetting that balance and the results were starting to bite.
What Simon Jones and other Stockton locals weren't to know, however, was that things would quickly get worse. Shortly after the last round of sand nourishment the East Coast would suffer from a protracted La Nina, replete with weeks and months of sand-shifting easterly swells, and the situation would become dire. It was no longer a case of losing the beach; loss of property became a very real threat.
For three years the cogs of bureaucracy slowly turned until late last year the Stockton Beach Taskforce began bearing fruit. The NSW government annouced a $6.2 million rescue package for Stockton, with the Federal government chipping in $4.7 million towards the project, with City of Newcastle $1.5 million. For their part, the State government would oversee the approvals process, locate sand for nourishment, and co-ordinate its delivery.
"It's only right that the NSW Government take on this critical role given it is their infrastructure, namely the breakwater and deepwater navigation channel of the Port of Newcastle, that has been proven as the primary cause of ongoing erosion," said Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes pointedly.
Starting last week, Phase 1 of the project began with the Trud R, a curiously named suction hopper dredge, extending its appendage to the sea floor and 'rainbowing' its load back onto the beach. The plan is for 100,000 cubic metres of sand to be "strategically placed" at the southern end of Stockton during this phase.
"They’ve been dumping in the same 100 metre stretch since lunchtime Saturday," reported Simon Jones. "I think they do about six loads a day, with something like 1000m3 per load."
"I had a look this afternoon at low tide and you can see a bit of a spit starting to form."
“The long-term solution is to secure the 2.4 million cubic metres of sand needed for initial mass nourishment," said Michelle Bisson from the City of Newcastle, "and annual sand top ups in line with community wishes and the plan endorsed by the NSW Government."
After a half-decade without any appreciable sandbanks, not to mention the threat of property loss, campaigning surfers such as Simon Jones are watching it all unfold with interest and not a little bit of excitement. "We’re hoping [the NSW government] takes ownership of the project to place all 2.4 million cubic metres."