Trees collapse onto beach as erosion worsens at Byron Bay

Severe erosion at Clarkes Beach (looking back toward Main Beach) in January this year. Photo: Kate O'Neill
Severe erosion at Clarkes Beach (looking back toward Main Beach) in January this year. Photo: Kate O'Neill

Big swells in recent weeks have resulted in further erosion of sand dunes at Clarkes Beach and Main Beach at Byron Bay.

More trees have collapsed onto the beach and the council has brought in heavy equipment to push the trees to the foot of the dunes to stabilise them and trap sand.

The council says in the short-term the situation may get worse before it gets better.

"As regular beach-goers will attest to, there has been an incredible loss of sand on one of Australia's signature beaches and it is really sad to see the incredible impact this has had on vegetation and beach amenity," Director of Infrastructure Services Phil Holloway said.

"History tells us that the sand will eventually return but the dunes and vegetation may require assistance to rebuild and re-establish.

"Returning the beach to what it was before this erosion event may take many years, primarily depending on how soon the sand moves back to the location," he said.

Coastal erosion and shoreline recession is a natural process although this has accelerated recently by the persistent erosional trend that has been seen on some Byron Bay beaches over the last few years.

We understand for many in the community it is difficult to see the beach in the terrible state it is

"We understand for many in the community it is difficult to see the beach in the terrible state it is, however this is part and parcel of living in a dynamic coastal environment," Mr Holloway said.

Aerial images show a lot of sand has built up at The Pass and winter conditions generally bring more southerly ocean swell which will hopefully push the sand further down to Clarkes Beach and Main Beach.

Until the sand is replenished Council will continue to manage public safety and beach accesses but at this stage there are no plans to place sand bags at the foot of the dunes.

FALLEN: Trees crumble of Main Beach. Photo: Sophie Moeller

FALLEN: Trees crumble of Main Beach. Photo: Sophie Moeller

"We are monitoring this situation every day and given that this erosion phase has been a very long one, likely more than three years, we are hoping the sand will start to move onto the beaches very soon," Mr Holloway said.

Once the sand rebuilds Council will look at a range of different measures to help restore the sand dunes including beach scraping, sand trapping, restoring fencing and dune revegetation.

"In the meantime we urge people to please stay off the sand dunes completely, away from the bottom of steep sand escarpments and to only use beach access points that are open," Mr Holloway said.

"For a small coastal Council we have a large coastline that is vulnerable to coastal hazards and coastal planning is complex and time-consuming.

"Council has started developing a Coastal Management Program for our coastline, with the erosion at Clarkes Beach a stark reminder of the need to find a workable long-term solution.

ACCESS DENIED: Entry onto Main Beach is restricted due to broken paths. Photo; Sophie Moeller

ACCESS DENIED: Entry onto Main Beach is restricted due to broken paths. Photo; Sophie Moeller