Castles Made of Sand

(…fall into the sea, eventually…)

A Hendrix classic.  Are we living in castles made of sand here in Lennox?  Will they fall into the sea…eventually?

Ballina Council has adopted studies recommending an approach of ‘protect’ rather than ‘retreat’ in the face of coastal erosion. Council is now forming a plan prevent erosion damaging public and private property by using beach nourishment (extra sand) and, if necessary, extending the seawall.

But is there actually a problem that needs solving? Not yet. Studies have shown the coast at Lennox has eroded significantly since 1950, but that’s not really news – just ask any local over 70 about the tennis courts that were east of where the seawall is now.

This erosion was largely due to more sand leaving the beach, to the north, than is entering from the south (the local ‘sand budget’).  Erosion can also occur from storms (derr!), but this is generally temporary, and also from sea level rise* which experts tell us to expect.

The Richmond River training walls (built around 1900) are likely to have exacerbated this ‘sand budget’ erosion by disrupting the northerly flow of sand.  We’ve seen a slowing of erosion in the last 10-15 years so perhaps the supply of sand from the south is finally getting back to normal.

This is a very welcome theory, strongly supported by recent detailed modelling. But it’s not all good news – the modelling also showed that future erosion from sea level rise* might be significantly worse than previous estimates for locations down-drift of headlands (like Lennox).

So the only constants are change and uncertainty – on the coast, as in life. How do we manage and plan ahead in such a situation?

In light of Council’s decision to protect, and the currently low risk of damage to property from erosion, the DRAFT Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) takes a steady-as-she-goes approach. It recommends monitoring of the quantity of sand on the beach, and sets triggers for when beach nourishment, and possibly a seawall, should be implemented.

Fundamentally the CZMP seeks to: make sure we have undiminished access to and along our beaches; preserve the natural character of our beaches; minimise erosion risk to public and private assets; and ensure expensive protective works are done only when and where necessary.

So there’s no need for Manic Depression. The CZMP will be on public exhibition between April 8 and May 17.  Check out the details and have your say on how Council should look after our beach.

* Individuals are entitled to their opinions on sea level rise, however Council has a responsibility to act on the consensus of experts and higher levels of Government.

Charlie Hewitt, Consultant Engineer


from Ballina Shire Council

Ballina Shire Council is required by the NSW Government to prepare a Coastal Zone Management Plan setting out how Council will manage erosion on our beaches. The plan is based on studies which include projections for 2050 and 2100.

Generally there is low risk to public or private built assets from coastal erosion along most of the Shire’s coastline. Where there is greater risk, such as Lennox Head, beach nourishment (large scale sand placement) is recommended, and possibly further seawalls.

The draft plan will be on public exhibition from 8 April to 20 May to let you have your say on how Council should manage coastal erosion.

There will be a public open day on Saturday 4 May from 9am to 12 noon outside the Lennox Head IGA, where you can review the draft plan, discuss it with project staff and make a submission.

The plan is available for viewing at Council’s Community Access Points and on the Council website.

Submissions close: Monday 20 May 2013.

Enquiries: Paul Busmanis, Engineering Works Manager, Ph 6686 4444 or email

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