Erosion exposes 'potentially deadly' hazard lurking on popular beach

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

A popular NSW beach badly depleted by coastal erosion is at crisis point after the emergence of potentially-fatal hazards hidden along the ocean’s edge.

Stockton Beach in Newcastle has been fighting a losing battle as vast amounts of sand continue to be washed away, leaving sand levels severely depleted and the beach – and nearby properties – at serious risk.

Following a recent intense period of erosion, the beach is now facing another emergency after WWII tank traps, which had been buried deep into the sand and broken up, have started to reappear.

The man-made blocks, which have sharp poles protruding from them, stretch kilometres along the beach and pose a significant safety risk to beachgoers and surfers.

Residents are concerned it won’t be long until a life is lost.

Thousands of tank traps line the ocean's edge along Stockton Beach. Source: Stave Stockton Beach

Local resident Simon Jones, the president of Northside Boardriders, told Yahoo News Australia there were “thousands” of the traps emerging along the beach, with many hidden by the water.

“The vast majority of them have big spikes on them and some are waist deep in the water ... they’re almost more dangerous as they’re impossible to see,” he said.

Mr Jones added some of them had been dumped in their current position to mitigate coastal erosion and haven’t been addressed since.

And while he said many locals are aware of the problem, visitors were none the wiser.

Many have sharp spikes protruding. Source: Stave Stockton Beach

“There’s a fair amount of people who come from out of town and they wouldn’t know they were there,” he said.

“If it was me I would just run up and dive into the water. You could dive straight on top of them.”

‘He was really lucky he didn’t get impaled’

Mr Jones said he was aware of one close call where a paddle boarder narrowly escaped serious injury.

“He was paddling past and got washed over them and he fell off... he smashed his board to pieces,” he said.

“He was really lucky he didn’t get impaled.”

When asked if the blocks could lead to a loss of life, Mr Jones offered an affirmative response.

“One hundred per cent. There’s a chance they could be fatal,” he said.

Mr Jones claimed the blocks have appeared before and when they emerged at the more popular southern end of the beach, City of Newcastle council erected signage warning of the threat in the waters.

Some of the spikes were also removed from the blocks.

However the blocks further along the beach, which is most popular with surfers, wasn’t subject to the same treatment, Mr Jones said.

Yahoo News Australia has contacted City of Newcastle Council regarding the traps along the beach.

A sign erected at the south end of Stockton Beach. Source: Save Stockton Beach

‘It’s outright dangerous’

The extent of the damage caused by erosion has meant the council have been forced to close off the two public entrances to the beach.

Mr Jones said the ongoing troubles have badly affected the community, with residents desperate to return the beach to its former glory.

He said he has seen dwindling visitor numbers and his club had suffered as a result.

“Over the last five years it has definitely affected the way we operate. We can’t hold competitions and there’s less young kids starting up with the club, probably because its outright dangerous to even begin to learn to surf,” he said.

On Monday, Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock announced funding of $175,000 to help tackle the growing problem of erosion on the beach.

This will mean 5,500 tonnes of sand will be placed on the beach in a bid to replace the lost sand.

“I know delays have frustrated the community, but I assure locals my department is doing everything it can to assist council investigate all potential options to support beach replenishment efforts,” Ms Hancock said.

Mr Jones however fears the sand drop may only be a temporary fix and believes the council should consider sand dredging, where sand is recovered from the sea bed and moved to the shore.

City of Newcastle confirmed they are investigating whether dredging is a viable solution for the beach.

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