A marathon going in the wrong direction

Once a restored dune is now GONE - Harley Park, Labrador.

Once a restored dune, now GONE – Harley Park, Labrador.

I feel like I am on fire at the moment. The cascading coastal moments that have inspired me to tangent away are almost on par with the dynamic nature of the coast (thank god I’m heading to Europe next week for a holiday).

This time round it is about the marathon of steps in coastal management. My poetic moment of the sun, sand and the sea yesterday has sadly come and gone. So, prepare yourself, as it could get negatively nasty.

Just like you, I have an obsession with coastal dunes – I know, how incredible are they! From the undulating mounds of sand, the distinct formation of the zones, the ability to build beaches, the cross-stitched layers of runners, the delicate flowers that can withstand some of the harshest conditions and even the tasty treats and medicinal properties of the dune plants. Proof of such incredibleness has been scientifically proven in mounds of research and literature, and even pre-European settlement evidence. It’s a fact that such incredibleness of dunes provides an integral interface between land and sea.

So, if you haven’t got the picture yet, dunes are more than just stockpiles of sand covered with a few grasses and shabby looking trees and shrubs. Dunes are chicly fundamental for the protection, management and enhancement of the coast.

I know this because my passion for dunes is backed by my professional experience (in particular for Gold Coast’s dunes).

I have been working in partnership with many community groups and individuals to enhance their awareness about coastal management and in particular dune protection. Further, I have physically spent my Saturdays, after Saturdays and more Saturdays and the odd Sunday, plus weekdays, facilitating community and school-based dune care activities since I was a young 19 year old (I am now 26 with two white hairs). Given such, I have seen the efforts of dune care benefit the overall health of beaches and in some instances, fast tracked the recovery of beaches after erosion events. I have seen conservation values increase and even community connections evolve into ownership and then leadership. Trust me when I say trust me as this tangent has intense credibility. I am not just a smiling crazy dune girl.

Moving on and closer to home (ah, it gets better), since I was 14, I have been walking/running passed the same stretch of coastal dunes almost everyday. Due to the awareness about coastal dunes I gained while studying coastal environments at university, I soon instigated the possibility to facilitate a community dune care site along this stretch of coast to enhance the health of the area. Fortunately, my local Councillor got 110% behind me and still is. So, it was a reasonably easy process.

Go out and assess the site, provide vegetation management and work action plans, encourage the local community to come along, write a few successful grants, and then pack the Ute and head to the beach for some dune care with a some fresh muffins and scones to share, on the third Saturday of every second month.

Four years later, Siratro taproot after Siratro taproot, we – now a group – watched the benefits of dune care unfold in front of us. The incidence of weeds soon decreased, which allowed for the native vegetation to flourish. A dune system was restored and in my opinion stage 1 of 3 was complete. Yay! This was exciting.

Until today…

I was at an event with the local Councillor and State MP, amongst other prominent partners to praise a local shorebird hero! Then and there, it was brought to my attention that the council had done ‘maintenance works’ over this very same site we’ve been caring for. With the end result covering four years worth of effort as the swale of the dune was filled with sand, vegetation gone, a fence erected, concrete steps constructed and it looks as if most of the area will now be turfed. WTF!!

A functioning dune system that I have personally and professionally invested in – GONE!

People say that it is about baby steps in coastal management (or natural resource management in general). One-step forward and then two steps back and then sometimes a good sprint to ahead in the good times. Though, this time round, it feels like a marathon going in the wrong direction.

So, today I was asked, well, was there signage? The answer is not in this particular area as the area had been restored and so all signage had been moved further north. Plus, the effort involved to get signage is mental – meh, sign pollution.

The issue is – where is the logic in covering a completely restored dune, erecting a fence and saying goodbye to the Coastal Couch, Sea Purslane, Spinifex, etc. The very building blocks that provide the ability for the foreshore to build up, which supports the overall functioning role to allow the beach to be there in the first place.

I am now in a conflicting position with both my passion and professional role in a sticky situation – once again. As I fly the flag for dune protection on the Gold Coast, why not raise it high and stand for what I believe in and know. The same goes for most other coastal professionals, which is one of the million reasons why our coast is at the state it is today!

The only thing we can be assuring of is the organisational incompetency of particular institutions.

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