Would you make the same error if you were able to go back in time knowing what you know today? This question forms the basis of this tangent in an attempt to address some of the comments raised in a previous post – Solidifying Dunes.
I’d like to begin by breaking down the point of the tangent. It is pretty much on par with John McGrath’s comment about blurring the line between natural processes and urbanity. Being a coastal educator for almost 5 years, I raise this concept in almost every presentation when explaining coastal management on the Gold Coast – and in general – managing a dynamic interface. It can be as simple as balancing a pen on the edge of a glass, though, where there are chips or cracks, the balance will need to be re-defined or pose impossibilities leaving you scratching your head in a trial and error phase.
To keep this tangent upbeat, this is where my obsession for coastal dunes becomes paramount for the sustainability of the Gold Coast’s coastline. As the dunes blur natural processes and urbanity to create a beach experience.
Living along Australia’s most intensely managed coastline has many pros and cons. We all want a slice of it, which as a result has over accessorised accessibility. Wilf Adrill clearly points this out with private land ownership on the eastern side of the Gold Coast highway. In particular, the poor planning decisions to build on the ‘active system’ that current policies clearly articulate cannot be impacted. Although it is easy to point the finger at those who made the decision to sell our sand resources and privatise the dunes, we are all guilty being urban beachgoers. The reality is, even I drive around to find the closest car parking space at my local beach… and once the council concreted the path that has fast tracked my hast to the beach, I soon saw mums, dads and kids smiling more often than struggling to bear the burning feet summer sensation – I used to be one of those kids! We are creatures of comfort to say the least.
Another comment I want to expand on is in regards to Lisa Martin’s statement about how the City of Gold Coast has adhered to the recommendations of the Delft Report. Firstly, I am not entirely sure if I agree with all within the Delft Report knowing what I know today. However, in hindsight of the technology and knowledge of the 60s, I believe the report proposed best-practiced options. It’s just a shame the City (even with the then State Government support) did not have enough financial backing to execute the entirety of all the recommendations – I’ll leave did not open to debate.
I call this a coastal conundrum. We want good times to open beach experiences but this largely erodes coastal investment. Why do we need to invest when everyone is happy? This results in ‘unseen’ accumulative impacts resulting in reactive management rather than active. For instance, knee jerk ‘management’ based around better, cheaper and faster options, as engineers need to address coastal community concerns ASAP.
This opens the discussion on what DOES it take to manage the coast. Everyone thinks they know better, right? The surfers feel how the sand moves and dune carers know how to build beaches, agree? I’ve had the opportunity to be working out of the City’s Beaches and Foreshore Office this year and believe me it has opened my eyes on how decisions are made. I have come to two conclusions for the issues at play:
- The engineer’s passion to learn and do more is constrained by political will to invest more into the coastal management space. We all want cheaper rates, right? Simply speaking, cost cutting then impacts their budget perpetuating the reactive phase. Instead on the blame game, we should ALL be celebrating what has been achieved and create discussion to identify how we can build on what works and secure more investment.
- Coastal management is a diverse field and needs all disciples to be involved from discovery through to development and delivery of design. I have to admit the City’s team needs diversity to open fresh opportunities to allow this to happen on a day-to-day operational basis – not just from consultants.
I don’t want to walk the fine line anymore, as I love my job and love working with/for the City. So, my last comment is about what’s next? I do agree that we need to have an open, creative debate about coastal decisions on the Gold Coast. It is important for community members, who have invested into sustaining a coastal lifestyle to understand motivation or even indicators and the triggers that form decisions (even why the City bulldozed the dunes to ‘protect’ a concrete foreshore that opens a beach experience for everyone).
Let us not forget the past and learn from the wrong to create a creative coastal future together. As Professor Enzo Pranzini stated in his presentation on climate change and coastal protection, “shoreline protection must maintain wave energy and be the furniture of the town”.
Above all, the coast needs more than coastal management.