Our coast is turning into a bag store. From big to small, sausage-style to cube, various shades of beige, and resistant to abrasion and UV damage. Yes, I am ranting about sand bags and with so much on offer, it’s bags galore to protect our shore!
With such a riddle to get this tangent on its way, I think I am now free to rant away. I’ve been waiting for this tangent to surface, which a trip to Maroochydore last week gave me the space to digest my dilemma.
It was a glorious day with the sun, sand and sea setting a perfect scene. The very same drawcards for the northern migration of the Victorian-plated 4WD and caravan convey that my relatives are proud to be part of – they even have an anthem! Since retiring a few years ago they have been traveling to the warmer tranquil pockets of Australia to escape the Melbournian winter – and I don’t blame them! Nevertheless, fun family times were waiting to be shared on a mid-week day off.
Though as we approached the river mouth and walked around to the ocean beach, there ahead, before the horizon, reality sunk in. A coastal commonality between Maroochydore and my local beach – erosion, dredging, accessibility issues, sand bags, and the beach squeeze between the ocean and built-up environment. This beach was also endangered!
Just when I thought I was having a day off, my relatives and my dad were down my throat wanting to know what was going on (I almost felt bad taking a day off!). Geez, I don’t know everything; yet there was a level of expectation from them wanting to know what was the issue.
The issue is pretty simple, being coastal erosion. You see the high tide mark has been increasingly creeping on the boundary of the caravan park for sometime now. From what I can gather, a geotextile sand bag seawall was constructed for emergency protection purposes for the caravan park. Since then, multiple groynes have been placed in an attempt to ‘hold’ the beach together. Thus, a multiple-container-structure – or simply put a whole series of sand bags – has been constructed.
So, what’s the purpose of geotextile sand bags? Basically, they provide a ‘softer’ armouring approach to an erosion issue due to their environmental engineering benefits (hence the name). By placing them in a particular way, storm surge impact on coastal development can be reduced, and in addition damaging scours that can increase erosion rates. Innovation over recent years has increased durability and resistance, in particular the doubled lined design that allows permeability, ability to trap sand on the outer layer and being a sandy-colour addresses amenity issues.
So, what’s the perception? During emergency situations these little-to-big bags have been perceived as acceptable… well, what other products are out there that provide a quick ‘softer’ approach (unless you have a 100 or so truckloads of sand stock piled in your front yard. Although they are reasonably cost effective, they are certainly no solution to the problem. All they really do is enable us to buy time– right?
What I really want to highlight is that sand bags, whatever shape, size or form, are not a solution to a coastal erosion issue. Experts and even the sand bag industry agree. So, while we advertise the use of sand bags from regional coastal councils to even my local council placing them along Surfers Paradise beach (marketing 101 exposure!), the issue cannot and should not be diverted.
I just hope decision-makers use the time we can buy with utilising sand bags to strategically implement a holistic coastal management plan. Or else we won’t have a beach to protect or even more so, the coastal drawcards to gain royalties from the Victorian-plated 4WD and caravan convey, or a visit from my aunt and uncle. Let’s hope the impacts we place on our coast are only temporary.
Aha, just thought of another coastal tangent!