Coastal erosion a key concern to Margaret River Nature Conservation and resident volunteers

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Volunteers from the Margaret River Coastal Residents Association undertaking planting work last year at the storm-hit stretch.
Camera IconVolunteers from the Margaret River Coastal Residents Association undertaking planting work last year at the storm-hit stretch. Credit: Janet Dufall

Coastal residents are concerned about the rapid erosion of a key stretch of the Margaret River region’s iconic beach between Gnarabup and Riflebutts.

Always the subject of constant attention from volunteers, this year’s winter surge has dramatically escalated erosion of the stretch, posing possible safety risks to its signature coastal walk path.

While the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River recently secured funding to update its 2015 Coastal Hazard Risk Management and Adaptation Plan with new research, Nature Conservation Margaret River Region chief Drew McKenzie said the increased erosion was a worry.

“We’re obviously concerned about beach erosion and many sections of our coast have suffered damage due to winter storms this year,” the general manager said.

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The Shire plan would stake out key projects for rehabilitation work which Nature Conservation and the Margaret River Coastal Residents Association would undertake.

MRCRA president Adrian Wilson told the Times said the erosion was occurring faster than predicted.

“What was supposed to be a five-to-10-year buffer of primary dune between the ocean and the beach path disappeared over two winters,” he said.

“It would only take one powerful winter storm combined with a high tide to cause an erosion event that would remove a section, or sections, of the beach path.”

“Gnarabup-Prevelly is the safe swimming beach for Margaret River,” Mr Wilson said.

“With rapid population growth and increased visitation, not to mention the very large proposed developments at Gnarabup, the beach is under pressure from both the land and the ocean.

“What we have taken for granted over many years may not be as accessible or able to accommodate large number of beachgoers in the future.”

MRCRA member and rehab volunteer Janet Dufall said she was “amazed” the path had not yet collapsed.

“We are constantly checking and trying to shore up blow-outs as they occur,” she said.

Volunteers welcomed the Shire’s temporary fencing which reduced some of the erosion, as well as deterring dogs and pedestrians, but more comprehensive work would be required.

Mr McKenzie saluted the work of MRCRA volunteers and urged beach users to consider how to reduce further risks.

“Keep to the paths, keep off the dunes, and respect those areas so vegetation is as healthy as it can be and has the best chance to withstand winter storms,” he said.

Shire sustainable development director Nick Logan said the 2015 plan informed action on limestone cliff instability, beach nourishment, repairing the boat ramp, and planning for the future relocation of the foreshore path.

The new foreshore management plan would include more fencing and rehabilitation work, he said, and included “detailed beach monitoring” undertaken since 2015.

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