Hands off our sand: warning from northern beach residents

Semaphore and Largs Bay locals have sounded a warning about sand from their beaches being taken to be used further south, as trucks are readied to ferry thousands of tonnes of quarry sand to replenish Henley and West Beach within weeks.

Mar 01, 2023, updated Mar 01, 2023
Henley Beach South last week. Photo: Ben Kelly

Henley Beach South last week. Photo: Ben Kelly

Save Our Shores: Semaphore Largs Bay successfully fought to have a Liberal plan for a replenishment pipeline taking sand from their beaches to the south axed when the Labor Government won the last election – and they are ready to fight again.

Lobby group member Warwick Norman said if the current review of sand replenishment on Adelaide beaches raises the pipeline plan again, locals will launch new protests – particularly after sand was mined from the area to replenish West Beach more recently.

“Our beaches are starting to recover from the last time sand was taken, but they certainly took a battering after a lot of sand mining where the dunes were pushed back,” Norman said.

Protests erupted over a planned pipeline to take sand from Semaphore and Largs Bay to beaches further south. Photo: Save Our Shores: Semaphore Largs Bay

The Environment and Water Department this morning outlined an estimated $4 million sand replenishment program where 75,000 cubic metres of sand will be trucked from quarries and Semaphore breakwater to create a buffer for metropolitan beaches through winter storms.

It came after Henley and West Beach locals last week called for urgent action to fix their disappearing beaches, Henley Surf Life Saving Club saying members had to shovel sand so rescue vehicles could safely access the beach from its ramp.

Access staircases are closed along the popular beachfront as the drop from the bottom steps is deemed too dangerous to negotiate, with long-term residents saying Henley Beach, Henley South and West Beach are in the worst state they have ever seen.

Environment Department coast and marine manager Murray Townsend said this morning that the “autumn program” will begin on March 14, starting with 10,000 cubic metres of sand being collected from the Semaphore breakwater for Semaphore Park.

At Henley Beach and Henley Beach South, trucks will begin dumping 15,000 cubic metres of quarry sand from March 20.

Townsend said West Beach will receive 50,000 cubic metres of quarry sand between April and June, on top of 50,000 cubic metres of sand delivered in spring 2022.

“Strong winds, large waves and storm surges, especially in the winter months, causes erosion of Adelaide’s beaches, which is why sand movement works are required to manage those areas,” he said.

Trucks are scheduled to deliver the sand through autumn to lessen disruption from trucks and equipment to beachgoers during summer and disturbance to nesting shorebirds at the Torrens Outlet.

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As the sand replenishment plan is firmed up, a State Government-appointed independent advisory panel continues with its Adelaide Beach Management Review due to be completed by the end of 2023.

It was a State Government election commitment to axe the Liberal plan to install an underground pipeline to move sand drift from the northern beaches back to Henley and West Beach.

Opposition Leader and Shadow Minister for Environment David Speirs said numerous studies have been conducted into the sustainability of Adelaide’s beaches over recent decades.

“The most recent comprehensive report by consultants, Danish Hydraulics Institute, outlined long-term options for managing erosion at West Beach and Henley Beach,” he said.

“It is clear that the success of the sand replenishment pipeline which nourishes beaches between Glenelg and Kingston Park was the best option available.”

He claimed the State Government is tied to an election commitment to axe the pipeline “and initiate a pointless review which will achieve little but the rapid collapse of our beaches while they await the outcome which may not be released until 2024”.

In response, a government spokesperson referred to the “comprehensive review of all options available to ensure a long-term solution, as we committed to do at the last election”.

The spokeswoman said this review would give coastal residents and beachgoers the chance to “participate in a discussion about the future of our coastline, and not be pitted against each other as has occurred in the past”.

“This review brings together scientific analysis and thorough community consultation, and will provide recommendations to government for long-term solutions to coastal erosion,” she said.

“In the meantime, sand replenishment works will continue along the coast, including significant amounts quarry sand being delivered at Henley Beach, Semaphore Park and West Beach.”

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