Western Australia's coastline faces erosion issues

Coastal change: Port Beach in Fremantle is one of Western Australia's erosion hotspots. Photo: File image.
Coastal change: Port Beach in Fremantle is one of Western Australia's erosion hotspots. Photo: File image.

Given our climate and environment, living close to the beach is one of Western Australia's drawcards.

Across regional WA we are blessed with beautiful coastal communities and our way of life is centred around the proximity to the shoreline.

However, with climate change and rising sea levels a hot topic of national and international debate, there is a growing call for the authorities to address the issue of coastal erosion.

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan raised the topic at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Cairns earlier this month and has stated a unified and deliberate response is needed to tackle the issue.

"WA has more than 20,000 kilometres of coastline and the issue of coastal erosion is not going away," he said.

"Valued infrastructure, homes and livelihoods are at risk due to major storm events and the global rise of sea levels.

"This is not a problem exclusive to WA, it's a national problem that needs a national response.

"I have written to the Prime Minister - managing coastal erosion should not just fall onto the lap of local and state governments, especially given the negative impact climate change is having on our coastlines.

"The Commonwealth response to climate change needs to prioritise coastal action and I look forward to discussing this further with my federal and state counterparts."

WA has become the first state in Australia to release a comprehensive report on coastal erosion, with the document made available earlier this month.

It details 55 locations across the state - 15 metropolitan and 40 regional - that have varying levels of risk.

An additional 31 locations have been placed on a watch-list for future monitoring.

Mr McGowan said the cost of nullifying coastal erosion at these at-risk sites would be about $110 million across the next five years.

The state government report listed at-risk sites as hotspots, with the locations spanning from Broome in the north to Esperance in the south.

Three locations within the City of Mandurah were included, with Doddies Beach, Mandurah's Northern Beaches and Falcon Bay identified.

The Cut and Koombana Beach in the City of Bunbury were also listed.

In the City of Busselton, six sites were included - two locations at Wonnerup Beach, King Street, Craig Street, Abbey and Locke Estate.

Esperance Town Beach and Hopetoun Foreshore were the most southern sites listed.

WA planning minister Rita Saffioti said the report would help the state plan coastal erosion mitigation into the future.

"This report is a step forward for all levels of government to better understand the challenges posed by coastal erosion in years to come," she said.

"While there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to managing coastal erosion, the outcomes of this study will help us refine our coastal management strategy and better allocate resources.

"We now have a list of 55 locations to focus our efforts on and we will work with all levels of government and with coastal managers to find ways to address the challenges.

"In the past decade more than $16 million in state funding has been invested in projects to improve planning and management of WA's coastal assets."

The Australian Coastal Councils Association was set up in 2004 and currently has 55 local governments across the country as members.

The organisation's role is to tackle issues for councils operating in coastal locations, with erosion a main area of focus.

ACCA chairman Barry Sammels, who is also the mayor of the City of Rockingham, said he had met with federal environment minister Sussan Ley recently and a combined response was needed.

"We believe that we need bipartisan support and it is an issue for all tiers of government," he said.

"We were really glad and pleased to hear that the Premier came out and said some of the things we have been saying for a number of years.

"I'm surprised it hasn't been on the national agenda and it hasn't been talked about more previously.

"I have written to all state environment ministers to say it needs to be on the agenda and we need to be talking about it."

Mr Sammels said sea level rises and severe storms were having an impact, with the issue impacting councils across the nation.

"What will be affected initially is the infrastructure along foreshores such as toilets, barbecues, gazebos and boat ramps - those sorts of things," he said.

"Every council is different - some are already having issues with residential properties.

"If you are not a believer in climate change and you don't believe in sea level rises, that's one thing.

"What we are saying as the Coastal Councils Association is that even severe storms are doing damage to boat-launching facilities, jetties and our coastline.

"We had some severe storms about six weeks ago and one of the footpaths in Rockingham was washed away and we had to close it off to repair it."

Mr Sammels said ongoing council projects were being undertaken to delay and prevent the impact of coastal erosion.

"The most-common course of action is re-nourishment and replacing that coastline - a lot of councils have seen their beaches narrowed over the years due to erosion," he said.

"It involves the replenishment of sand and re-nourishing the beaches.

"A lot of councils will establish seawalls and we are starting to look at that in Rockingham, over in Peron near Shoalwater."

However, with the City of Rockingham spending about $500,000 on re-nourishment projects annually and a seawall costing about $750,000 to establish, not all local governments have that option.

"At least Rockingham is a decent-sized council and has a reasonable budget," he said.

"A lot of our members are small regional councils and they don't have the resources or funding to do these seawalls and replenishment projects.

"That's why we need assistance from both the state and federal governments."

To read the state government's coastal erosion report, visit transport.wa.gov.au/imarine/coastal-erosion-and-stability.asp.