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)


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


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.

Don’t be hooked

Jabiru Island Clean Up results In the beginning of the year I organised a coastal clean up on Jabiru Island where over 520kg of trash was removed from the mangroves and parkland, including 171 bait bags – we counted a third of what we collected so I can only imagine that figure would have been well over 200. Download the report here!

A few months ago an organisation (or more so a coalition of organisations) I am involved in released some pretty stinky results about finding 48 dog poo bags with dog poo in the bags within 45minutes on Palm Beach, a southern Gold Coast beach. The Gold Coast Bulletin ran a good media campaign naming the beach Gold Coast’s stinkiest beach – reaching the Daily Mail in the UK! Despite 6months of no action from the City of Gold Coast (which is why we went to the media) the story caused quite a stir and with no time to spare council officers were down on the beach steam cleaning the beach back to it’s award winning clean beach standard. But after the media that week I found twice as many dog poo bags on Gold Coast’s beaches, even three dirty nappies. (Please note: we are yet to do a follow up monitoring audit to see if dog owners have changed their behaviour in picking up their dog’s poo and putting it in the bin or still leaving the poop in bags on the beach or hung up in the trees).


Gold Coast Seaway Clean Up – held in July

Then a month ago a coalition of organisations led the biggest coastal clean up The Spit has ever seen pulling up 180km of fishing line from under the Gold Coast Seaway and collected 41kg of fishing debris from along the rock wall. Another clean up is planned for 30th August – save the date and keep an eye out for the flyer to be released this week. 

Today, I had a cuppa with Rowley from Wild Bird Rescue Gold Coast who shared many stories about his efforts in single-handedly rescuing over 1500 local birds in the last three years. The majority of the bird rescues are related to fishing debris where fishing line becomes entangled around their feet or hooks hooked through their wings.

Now I am sure you are getting a bleak picture of what my coastal background looks like… but the truth is putting the what’s out of sight is out of mind issue aside it looks relatively clean and healthy. Beautiful clean waterways, clear ocean waters and we even have a pool room of clean beach awards – many thanks to the beach sweepers every morning, the canal maintenance teams and the many community volunteers who consistently pick up litter and other debris or even rescue wildlife from entanglements. But yet again, we wouldn’t need any of the above if people just did the right thing. Imagine if the council diverted funding from city-wide beach cleaning to more festivals or community volunteers actually enjoying the Gold Coast coastal lifestyle?

The sad reality is that we do have an out of sight out of mind issue! We have a major marine and fishing debris and beach litter epidemic! Now I know this cause I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for almost 10 years and the issue isn’t going away and if anything it is getting worse. Cigarette butts flicked outside car windows, plastic bags floating across roads and trash blanketing the edges of highways.

Then this afternoon this sad reality got a little too close to me. After enjoying a walk along The Spit with my dog I sat down on my towel to enjoy the beautiful sunset. As my dog loves to dig, she started digging a hole next to me. Then all of sudden she started yelping… I looked down at her front leg and she got hooked by two fishing hooks. I couldn’t believe it! There I was enjoying my beach experience and having already picked up a small bag of fishing debris from along the beach there was more, under the sand. I really couldn’t believe it! There was a whole beach to choose where to sit and me of all people chose to sit there!

I sent a message to Rowley almost immediately and he inspired me to write this blog, cause this information needs to get to out there to inspire real action. Cause if we don’t address the symptom we’ll be forever cleaning up the coast and wasting our time and money on a never ending issue, and my poor dog might get hooked again.


The fishing hooks that hooked into my dog’s leg


My dog, Elle digging for fun – not to be hooked!







I have a few solutions I want to see happen. What we need is baseline funding to support the development of such solutions, including:

– a city-wide marine debris monitoring program, approx. $30,000

– on-going scientific underwater monitoring of the Gold Coast Seaway to measure accumulation rates of fishing debris along the rock wall, approx. $30,000

– support Wild Bird Rescue Gold Coast, $10,000

– pilot a bait bag deposit scheme, $5,000

– a short film competition where finalists have their films run as TV ads to raise the issue in every lounge room

– appropriate signage to remind people that IT’S NOT OK to drop litter…

– substantially increase fines for littering to raise some revenue for the above

What’s the next step? Send an email to Council? Wait 6 more months for a response? Media? Talk with Mayor Tom Tate? 

I think all the above! Watch this space!

It's time we protect every part of our coastline

It’s time we protect every part of our coastline



A fair go

Inspire: a fair go (photo source: Tiphaine Tif`)

Inspire: a fair go (photo source: Tiphaine Tif`)

‘We just want a fair go’ – is what everyone wants. A fair go in life, love and opportunity. Yet many are not given a fair go. Are not recognised. Are not valued. Are not acknowledged.

I couldn’t have felt the rawness and intimacy of community knowledge about the southern beaches of the Gold Coast any better (or empowering) than what I experienced the other day. I am at the stage of collecting community knowledge about Rainbow Bay for my Honours thesis, which aims to discover the value and use of community knowledge – experiences and memories – of the (a) beach.

Discover is quite the understatement for the process behind pealing-back the layers of community knowledge (e.g. what does that even mean and represent?) that is yet to be interpreted in my own youthful, passionate words.

Although the other day occurred as simple and organic as I imagined it to be. Under the shade of a Pandanus tree I listened to an awe-inspiring journey of community leaders who have laid a path (wave by wave; meeting by meeting; win by win) into what appears to most people as breathtaking coastal vistas to enjoy and experience for free, every day, every year. If I had to sum it up into one sentence I’d say it’d be a coastal legacy that has given a voice for the beach and its community and users.

In the context of coastal community engagement such a legacy starts with developing relationships, trust and respect to open a leveled-playing field for everyone to contribute and share ideas and knowledge. This can’t be achieved during abstract bite-size consultation processes or even under the florescence lights of council meeting rooms, halls and libraries especially when on one side of the table you have the engineers and scientists and on the other side you have the community. And there they debate about what is best for the beach.

Instead the journey occurs [must occur] over years of determination, persistence and commitment to the cause – qualities that all community leaders show. A community leader might be one of four at a meeting under the florescence lights but their experiences and memories of the beach speak the truth of community knowledge and validate historical accounts. And for some the journey began as a child discovering what the beach means and have experienced change longer than any scientific document might capture. Change that now exists in history and frames distinctions about when and why decisions were made only to bare the consequences  of an engineered coastline with a ’25-story fence’ isn’t what the beach needs…

Yet, when decisions are made about the coast we tend to invest is enormous-expensive reports that make no sense to the community.

But if you really dig deep and question the alternatives to collecting community knowledge what would you say?

You see the journey of my thesis echoes the community desires as my journey starts with talking with the community, which they appreciate and acknowledge. Because I believe the value of community knowledge about the beach surpasses any scientific analysis on how sand moves and where it goes. And I am determined to break the cycle of the them-and-us approach.

Some might say I am passionate about beaches and coastal community engagement. I would say that I know the truth and determined to speak the truth.

Many thanks to those who are contributing to my thesis.