Lost opportunity

I have a lost opportunity to tangent about – full stop. Maybe a red dot next to it, only if you warrant it.

Geez. Get ready to ruffle your feathers and manage your rising pulse. Cause my local council is at it again. Getting it entirely wrong when it comes to ‘restoring’ the dunes, either after a ‘peal back’ once sending in the doctor to check up on the health of a seawall or attempting to replace the entire ecology and structure of a well intact, functioning coastal ecosystem – the dunes. Can someone please explain? Cause non of the community’s calls to action have been answered, hence, them connecting with me to vent their frustrations and marathons of no hope.

Yes, an officer actually said to a local rate payer, every day beach goer – why are you complaining now if you haven’t complained in the past? Well, because they are genuinely worried that the ecology and health of the dunes won’t be replaced.

Genuinely – an adjective to explain in accordance with truth or fact or reality.

And because they have witnessed, and same with me the terrible dune restoration along 23rd – 25th Ave Palm Beach after a seawall upgrade – it is far from like for like (what was once there).

Now to set the scene. If you haven’t already guessed I am referring to the dunes between Tallebudgera SLSC and 23rd Ave Palm Beach (for non locals, just south of Burleigh Headland on the Gold Coast). The seawall has been repaired over the last two years, which has meant the ecology of an intact beautiful dune corridor has been erased. Why? Cause the engineers need to carefully place huge rows of boulders, 15m wide and 5m deep to construct an overly overrated  seawall that aims to act as the last line of defence against coastal erosion. Flash back to 1967, you will see why.  But the catch is they need to erase the dunes to dig out a massive hole to bury public money under the dunes. And 27th Ave to Tallebudgera SLSC is the latest section to be bulldozed – see the photos below.

The significance of this project raises my pulse and my independent opinion to call for an immediate action to launch an independent inquiry into council’s approach and recommendations into the restoration of the dunes after such invasive works. 

27th Ave, Palm Beach in July 2011 (a restored dune)

27th Ave, Palm Beach in July 2011 (a restored dune)

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The restored dune erased after the seawall upgrade. 27th Ave, Palm Beach in August 2015

Moving on and almost 40 years later, wrong decisions are still being made even after reams of knowledge and research that produce the same stock standard BW reports that hardly anyone reads. In my opinion no one is bringing innovation to the table… leaving our wildlife to starve and pigeons to be the only dune forages among the now bare dunes sprinkled with Heineken-green  broken glass and gravel rock.

Now I know this section of dunes with my eyes closed. I could lead the blind to touch the waxy leaves of an amazing Spider Lily once planted by ‘disengaged’ local youth. To the local kindy kids who grew native dune plants and came down on a hot summers day in 2011 to plant 100s of foredune species. Then there was that time volunteers pulled bags and bags of weeds from the dunes only to be rewarded with refreshing watermelon and the old lady across the road to come out and say thank you with cake! Then the breakthroughs with beachfront residents to keep on top of the weeds and allow other volunteers to access water and hoses to hydrate the plants during the dry season. Wildlife was flourishing, life was good.

A flourishing foredune planted by local kindy kids in summer 2011

A flourishing foredune planted by local kindy kids in summer 2011

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Coastal Pigface in the mid dune at 27th Avenue. Everyone’s favourite!

Then someone thought it was good idea to say, well, let’s upgrade the seawall despite the well intact healthy dune system that laid above the old seawall. The very system that is there to protect the seawall… too.  All while people just walk past oblivious to what was actually going on all in the name of progress.

Well, until the council started to lay 30sqm of turf on the dunes!! Yes. Here comes the lost opportunities.

Looking south at the end of the eastment at 27th Ave. 30sqm of turf about to be laid.

Looking south at the end of the eastment at 27th Ave. 30sqm of turf about to be laid.

The first lost opportunity is the fact that the community volunteers that planted 1000s of dune plants over a 5-year period did not participate in a transplanting day because ‘resources’  were tight? Mmm.. how much was that seawall? And there are heaps of resources and community nurseries that could have hosted the plants or they could have simply been transplanted in the southern section along 23rd – 25th Ave where the biodiversity is as bare and stale as day-old white bread.

Fairy wrens were once the favoursite along 23rd-25th Ave. Penguins were the only 'wildlife' I saw on inspection in December 2014.

Superb Fairy Wrens and Willie Wagtails were once the favourite along 23rd-25th Ave. These Pigeons were the only ‘wildlife’ I saw during an inspection in December 2014.

The lone tree, a memorial tree and the only replaced Casuarina along 23rd-25th Ave.

The lone tree, a memorial tree and the only replaced Casuarina along 23rd-25th Ave. Photo taken in December 2014. The tree has since been replaced and moved.

Neatly lined up foredune species. Not the ideal method and selection. Where are the woody shrubs and trees that were once here?

Neatly lined up foredune species. Not the ideal method and selection. I might be blind, but where are the woody shrubs and trees that were once here? Photo taken in December 2014.

The second lost opportunity is that they have profiled the dunes at 27th Ave with NO swale, so now we have a flat even spread of sand. Kinda like a canvas but unfortunately no Piassco to plant an abstract masterpiece.

The third lost opportunity is that council’s like for like ‘policy’ when replacing what was once there also includes 30sqm of turf for commercial reasons? Since when do we turf dunes for commercial reasons and this also conflicts with the council’s very own dune policy??!!

The fourth lost opportunity is that the council has not responded to any community concerns about this 30sqm of turf.

And in the upcoming fifth sequential we will most likely see Spinifex, Coastal Pigface, Beach beach and Goat’s foot all planted in neat rows, lessening the restoration and ecological outcome. I doubt any of the like for like trees and shrubs will be replaced – as that is what has happened at 23rd-25th Ave through to Broadbeach, Main Beach, Surfers, Miami , Nobbys… wherever they have brought in the bulldozers.

Next up the sixth season of the saddest dune stories. Because the fact is that most of these people who are making these decisions are actually decent people. Why would anyone intentionally wake up in the morning and think wow, today is the perfect day to fuck up a dune restoration project. It’s just that they don’t know how to ‘design’, ‘replace’ and ‘restore’ dunes from a bar of the crappiest soap. This is why I am calling for an independent inquiry into how the council approaches these projects and how we can actually integrate innovation to get the biggest bang for our public buck. Cause once the next storm rolls in these dunes will not be ready to withstand coastal erosion.

I am not trying to be rude, funny, abrupt or harsh. I am trying to bring sight to the blinded beach goers to think that this is NOT OK. Cause Palm Beach deserves much more than no frills dune restoration and the community, and all those volunteers deserve answers and repayment for their hard efforts that restored these dunes.

I understand the challenge of dunes coming and going with coastal erosion and sometimes community and contractor dune restoration being washed away. Same goes with fencing, pathways, roads and houses. We are constantly creating and building in a dynamic coastal zone and you have to respect unforgiving coastal risks. This makes it even more rewarding and important to build up an amazing dune between April – October to ensure the dunes are ready for summer, thus, to save the beach from actually disappearing.

But when it comes to bulldozers and suits on our dunes, respect and answers are what the community are seeking for and that is what I call the start of progress.

Bring the old dunes back to Palm Beach.

4 thoughts on “Lost opportunity

  1. Friends of Currumbin , T2B , Bilinga to Border, Surfrider GCT , some committee members of TPA ( with potential conflicts and connections to pro Oceanway DEHP staff ) and sadly GECKO are all guilty of this as they lobby to install concrete on the dunes.

  2. Hi Naomi. Do you mind if I use your images (with appropriate credits) of how this project is unfolding with my students (QUT) who I intend to bring on fieldwork to GC next week. It is devastating to see the dune destruction!
    Julie Davis

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