Busselton's draft coastal hazard and risk management plan has residents concerned

Coastal erosion along Geographe Bay is expected to worsen in the coming decades.
Coastal erosion along Geographe Bay is expected to worsen in the coming decades.

Mitigation measures to protect Siesta Park and Marybrook have been excluded in the City of Busselton's draft Coastal Hazard Risk Management and Adaptation Plan from the year 2070.

The draft plan outlines a potential strategy for the city to protect coastal areas from storm damage and erosion over the next 100 years.

Within the plan, the city's coastline is broken into 19 management areas.

Potential risks and management or adaption options are identified in each of those 19 areas, including recommendations to protect, accommodate or retreat from the coastline.

A resident said there were no guarantees in the draft plan that landowners in Siesta Park or Maybrook would be protected past 2070, and they could be required to pay special area rates in the meantime.

"They seem to have made a decision that our area is not worth protecting," the resident who wished to remain anonymous said.

The strategy outlines whether the city should protect or retreat from coastal areas and is expected to cost billions of dollars over the 100 year time frame, with most of the costs not being met until after 2040 and in many cases not until after 2070.

[The draft plan] allows future generations to determine whether continued protection of this section of the coast is appropriate, beyond that time, rather than committing future generations today.

City of Busselton chief executive Mike Archer

City of Busselton chief executive Mike Archer said there was relatively little public use of the coast in Siesta Park or Marybrook, and almost no public infrastructure would be at risk over the next few decades.

"That is different to most of the rest of the city's coast," he said.

"As such, it was considered that it may be more appropriate that the costs of coastal protection be borne by the benefitting property owners, rather than by ratepayers in general.

"Some of the property owners are, in fact, currently funding their own, private coastal protection works.

"It is also considered that an integrated, city-led approach may have the potential to provide for coastal protection at lower overall cost and in a more effective manner, than relatively ad hoc private protection works."

Mr Archer said excluding Siesta Park and Marybrook from the plan post 2070 would allow future generations to determine whether continued protection of this section of the coast was appropriate, beyond that time, rather than committing future generations today.

"The erosion hazard lines referenced [in the plan] assume that the coast is not protected, and that existing coastal protection structures are not maintained," he said.

"The draft CHRMAP, however, proposes that this section of the coast is protected, until at least 2070."

UWA coastal oceanography professor Charitha Pattiaratchi said all local governments across Australia were required to produce a CHRMAP.

Professor Pattiaratchi said the CHRMAP's were looking at the vulnerability of Australia's coastline and what could happen, not only in the next 50 years but also in the next 10 years.

"There will be areas that are vulnerable it may happen or it may not happen, and this is for virtually every local government in Australia," he said.

"All the CHRMAP is doing is identifying areas that could be at risk in the future, and it could also happen long before that depending on the area."

Professor Pattiaratchi said there was no money in Australia, or in Busselton or with the state government that would be able to save all of the coast.

"At sometime governments and councils will have to say this area can't be protected anymore," he said.

"It will depend on the cost benefit, would you spend $20 million to save $1 million in infrastructure?

"For the residents who are affected this is a flag to say you may be in danger, and it may be that nobody is going to save you.

"Part of the CHRMAP program is to identify areas so this discussion can happen over a long period of time."

Professor Pattiaratchi said in the US, insurance companies had stopped covering properties located on coastal areas and a debate was currently happening in NSW after houses fell into the ocean.

"Sooner or later insurance companies will say they won't insure certain areas, and councils will say they won't support you," he said.

"Managed retreat is the only way people can do it.

"People have to realise there is not enough money.

"Councillors in the future may say we cannot save everybody there is no money anywhere.

"It happened in a suburb in New York City, they were getting so flooded the community decided they could not deal with it anymore.

"They approached the state government and asked for land somewhere else, and the community voluntarily moved one after the other."

Public submissions on the draft plan close on September 28, 2021 and the matter is expected to go before council before the end of the year for endorsement.

Have your say:

Should governments be doing more to protect residential properties and/or public infrastructure which could be vulnerable to coastal hazards? Why or why not?