My beach is part of our island nation’s blue backyard. Only to represent 0.1% of the Australian coastline, it does however have the attractive ability to attract millions of people every year. It also has the power to emotionally connect you and I, and us to others. Though amongst all what is most significant about my beach, is that it is sadly endangered. Where is my beach? My beach is on the Gold Coast.
Stating that my beach is endangered might ruffle a few feathers. The reality is there is an element of truth in such a statement. The Gold Coast beach bubble has popped [again] as the sandy highway has lost millions of cubic metres of sand. In simple terms, the ocean has decided it would like to borrow the sand to help re-profile the other 98% of beach we don’t tend to see or realise. Our oceanic mother is trying her best to dissipate her energy – just like I take my crazy dog for walks to let her energy out (and in a human context as we all have energy just sometimes we go a bit crazy to let it all out… hence, my obsession with Zumba).
Anyway, while our oceanic mother may seem tad energy at the moment, churning up our sand banks and beaches. The sand we associate with as being the beach has just simply moved offshore leaving the dunes and beach with large chunky escarpments and in some locations with no sand at all. I could have easily referred to the process as coastal erosion, but we need to understand why and how. Nevertheless, what makes such a natural coastal process so significant for my beach is a result from the urbanisation of the coastal zone.
Along the Gold Coast we have developed an ‘A-line’ between the natural and built-up environments, segregating what is and what was active. In addition, our obsession with the coast has resulted with us suffocating a fluid environment with access pathways, concrete bike/walk ways, roads and highways, beachfront homes, highrises and cafes, service clubs, toilets, viewing platforms, car parks, BBQs, o – and the playgrounds, showers and boxed dunes, etc… Meaning, due to the fact that my beach is super-accessible, the natural elements that make up and define it (e.g. dunes) have selfishly been sacrificed. We have trampled the coast in a weird way of showing love, which such love has endangered my beach – and we are all to blame!
I don’t think it is irrational to say we are all to blame as we have in someway contributed to our economy’s dependency on an active and dynamic, ever changing environment. Maybe we’ve been playing along the coast for far too long and haven’t really stopped to think – how long our coastal utopia will last? Sorry to burst your beach bubble, but my tiny youthful gloomy nature within me brings this tangent to remind us all that most things do have a best before date. So, has Gold Coast’s best beach days expired?
Whoah, this tangent continues! As a young leader in coastal management I have high hopes when I say, “NO, Gold Coast’s beaches will come back and be even better!” I have too much passion for the coast to just give up and head west to find another cause. Being half environmental scientist and half community development officer, I’d like to think I am a magnificently morphed coastal community champion that understands the issue, have the ability to help define solutions and engage those needed to bring all the above to light. A proud Gold Coast citizen to say the least, but more determined to make sure those kiddiewinks I talk to at kindergartens and schools get to have fun like I did back in the good old days – when I couldn’t even tweet.
Moving forward, what I really want to shine the spotlight on is how and why my beach is endangered (finally getting to the point of the tangent, sorry…). Coastal expert Prof. Andrew Cooper at University of Ulster in Ireland explains this concept for urbanised sandy coastlines. He has elaborated how urbanised coastlines have become squeezed coastal strips between built up and active coastal environments. Before long, beaches that rely on beach nourishment will become narrower and narrower as they won’t have the ability to keep up with shoreline recession. In addition, where there is mis-management or lack of management, such sandy coasts will become more and more endangered in the context of the lack of useable beach space. Thus, decreasing amenity values, accessibility and at large, reputation.
Though the Gold Coast has seen worst days and those who were around in 1967 are probably saying, “she’ll be right” looking at the state of my beach today. However, pressure amounts by X-fold today due to the half-a-million people potentially at risk and our cascading cash dependencies placed on the coast. Sourcing sand from offshore and at large the Broadwater is the most likely solution to help ‘fix’ my beach (which I must elaborate about the choice of our language in the another tangent). So, the risk-cycle will continue, though, what must not be ignored this time round is the lack of maintenance, as well as forward and innovative thinking.
Obviously there has been a huge failure in listening to the lonely coastal geologists and a lack of funding directed towards coastal science and management. Hopefully it’s not to late for my beach. I think we better save our pennies for a coastal future fund – aha – another tangent to come…