We urgently need more help to defend our dunes
This is a letter sent to the Noosa Mayor and Councillors this week urging more budgetary focus on the vital work of defending our dunes. This is an essential part of the strategy to protect us against the inevitable and increasing risks of climate change.
We write on behalf of Peregian Beach Community Association. The Association has been active in protecting the dunes in our local area for over 20 years.
We largely endorsed the Coastal Hazard Adaptation Plan (CHAP) with a few areas of concern: We strongly support the guiding principle that adaptation responses are driven by scientific evidence, risk management principles and community consultation. We understand that the actions that fall out of the CHAP will form the Coastal Management Plan. Given that Noosa Council has declared a Climate Emergency, and the CHAP clearly identifies priority areas there is a need to provide funding as soon as possible for those actions.
We are disconcerted that the Bush Reserves Management Plan (BRMP) appears to be inconsistent with the priority action areas identified in the CHAP - and we encourage Council to review this plan in light of CHAP but also in considering its overall responsibility for maintaining these reserves and consequently Noosa's green credentials.
Looking at Peregian Beach and Marcus Beach – the draft BRMP suggests:
The prioritisation process used in the BRMP does not appear to have considered the importance of the dunes, as outlined in the CHAP for Peregian Beach and Marcus Beach. The consequence is likely to mean even fewer, if any, Council resources would be dedicated to these coastal reserves and creeks. At a time when CHAP has identified the priority for these areas as dune revegetation and regeneration, reducing the resources does not make sense.
Further, PBCA and Marcus Beach Bushcare Association (MBBA) members have been working in these reserves for many years attempting to keep the weeds at bay and revegetate them with local native plants with significant but as expected, slow sucess. Failure to provide resources to continue this work will see their hard work wasted and the weeds take over.
Funding is required for the relevant actions identified in the CHAP as follows:
1. Community Stewardship:
The CHAP identifies that the most critical response to the impacts of climate change in our local area is to revegetate and replenish the dunes. The Plan identifies that it anticipates the community to take responsibility through "community stewardship". This approach is endorsed but only if significant resources and support are provided to make this model workable and it is not simply an abrogation of Council's responsibility. As MBBA describes it: Community stewardship requires that people move from valuing the coastline to taking an active role in its care. There are demonstrated benefits in this. For example, the Council’s own Bushland Operational Assessments (BOA’s) show that, while most of the Coastal Reserves have deteriorated, the areas where Bushcare groups are active have improved and expanded in ecological quality, particularly in those areas where Bushcare groups work in tandem with contract labour (MBBA response to draft CHAP).
There are 3 long established bushcare groups along the Eastern Beaches. These groups have each been innovative and have taken on complex and time-consuming environment projects meaning they are punching well above their weight. - for example - MBBA is currently conducting a three-year citizen science project on the best method for the eradication of Asparagus Fern and PBCA has developed a mechanical device to assist in removing the weed which allows more weeds to be pulled and also makes it easier.
Last year the three main bushcare groups were granted funds with the main purpose to engage contractors to undertake some of the heavy work in a few key locations. The funds are appreciated but are insufficient. Bushcare members volunteer their time to weed and plant and look after the area because they understand the significance of the dunes. The burden of administration associated with running a group, organising weeding sessions and equipment, running extra activities in an attempt to attract new members, applying for grants and managing their acquittal etc are tasks that are additional to the commitment to weed and plant.
The groups need support:
- to organise weeding and revegetation events, provide equipment, to support the efforts of those who come to weed and to educate new volunteers;
- with the preparatory work in heavily weed infested areas
- with recruitment of new volunteers - the members of the bush care groups are ageing and the groups are finding it difficult to recruit new members - this requires skill sets that the bushcare members do not necessarily have or want to use - given their primary interest is in caring for the environment in their local area.
2. Education about the importance of the dunes in the role of first line of defence against coastal hazards, the fragility of the dunes and identification of key weeds and their impact: This requires education of residents and visitors. Funding for education should include:
- information boards along the beach access pathway at key beach access points - as exists at Marcus Beach Access 47 - an initiative of the MBBA;
- information boards under shelters so they don't deteriorate with the impact of sun and rain – eg the information boards about key weeds at beach access points was an initiative of PBCA but many have weathered badly without shelter
- education of residents adjoining coastal (and other) reserves about the importance of the dunes and the impact of dumping garden waste in the reserve
- education of visitors - most of whom do not appreciate the importance of the dunes and make pathways, exercise on and slide down them.
PBCA's CHAP submission contains more detail and is attached.
3. Minimising encroachment onto the dunes, which requires:
- permanent fencing right to the beach and at either side of the beach access pathways for a reasonable distance to make it difficult to wander
- education of home owners and real estate agents so they cease advertising private pathways to the beach
- development of policy about encroachment onto the dunes and enforcement of the policy.
4. Citizen Science projects such as the CoastSnap project which collects data about the shoreline and sand movement through interested citizens taking photos with their mobile phones and sharing it through an app. Citizen science projects have multiple benefits as they are educational, gather significant information and foster an interest in the science associated with life near the ocean.
The Council needs to act now that it has identified the risks. Council should fund the required actions identified by the CHAP, and those additional community suggestions made in response to the CHAP. The release of the draft CHAP has contributed to the level of understanding in the community about the risks associated with climate change, and quite reasonably, generated expectations that Council will act. Failure to do so will be seen by the community as a serious failure to take responsibility for assisting the Noosa Shire to manage the hazards associated with climate change. Failure to act could also have a significant financial cost as insurers indicate their expectations of governments