Use caution at beaches and headlands – Wollongong

Wollongong City Council is appealing for residents to be a cautious around beaches and headlands with the current weather conditions expected to exacerbate the possibility of coastal erosion and rock falls.

Council staff have reported rockfalls and ground movement at headland locations in Thirroul, Austinmer, Wombarra and Coalcliff. Where it is practical to do so, we’ve placed warning tape at the cliffs edge of those sites we’ve identified movement, or where rockfalls are present, to discourage people from getting too close to cliff edges.

We will continue to monitor the sites and are urging people to be cautious with severe warnings currently in place from the Bureau of Meteorology, including for hazardous surf leading to coastal erosion on south-facing beaches and increasing the risk of falls onto rock platforms.

“We’ve had more than 700mm of rain in the first three months of this year – that’s more than half our annual average rainfall already,” Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM said.

“This weather is providing some real challenges for us to manage, and we’re not just talking about long grass in sports fields. We know this weather is causing potholes on the city’s roads, erosion on our beaches and the pounding waves against rock platforms and cliffs means there is always the possibility of rockfalls and ground movement.

“We ask everyone to avoid going anywhere near rock platforms and headlands over the coming weeks. It’s just not safe. We will continue to take a precautionary approach to preventing community access to public areas on our beaches and headlands when appropriate.”

The volume of rainfall over the past three months, mean that the city is at an elevated risk of ground movement and Council’s staff are out on the ground monitoring sites like Harry Graham Drive for movement.

“If you look at it from a scientific point of view, the rainfall we’ve experienced over the past three months puts us at increased risk of ground movement until early June – even if it stops raining today,” Cr Bradbery said.

However, the rain isn’t just causing challenges for parks and roads crews, with our three ocean pools regularly closing as they’re unable to draw in fresh, clean sea water, and our beaches are currently closed due to the dangerous conditions.

“The staff at Thirroul, the Continental and Port Kembla pool are working through some particularly difficult conditions, and they are doing their best to open the pools when they can,” Cr Bradbery said.

“The sea and swell conditions, combined with the water quality from runoff, means that the sea water they’re drawing in does not look appealing at all. The team will continue to monitor the water quality over the weekend.

“The beaches, too, are unsafe with the large seas, swells and high tides. Council lifeguards will continue to assess the conditions over the weekend as to whether it’s safe to put up the flags.”

In Helensburgh, meanwhile, staff are working on short, medium and long-term solutions to manage some ground erosion to Helensburgh Cemetery’s access road and near a number of grave sites. The graves are up to 120 years old, and the rainwater has washed away the sandy topsoil alongside the site’s sandstone borders.

We have placed temporary barriers to prevent people from driving along the internal access road to this section of the cemetery, and warning tape around the grave sites. We’ve used star pickets to underpin any impacted grave sites in the Roman Catholic Section, and placed sandbags to divert water away from the area. Once the weather improves, we will replace the eroded soil on the road to repair it and provide access to this section of the cemetery.

Long-term options will consider ways to preserve the grave sites, and provide road access to this section of the cemetery into the future. At each stage the options will consider the site’s geology, and how people move through the site. Our engineers are currently investigating the site’s existing swale and considering whether this is sufficient, or if other solutions around water diversion are needed. To reduce the risk of further damage to the site we need the weather to clear before any permanent works can be undertaken.

“We’re very mindful that seeing erosion in a resting site like Helensburgh’s bush cemetery can raise a really emotional response for some people, and we’re conscious of the of the heritage value of this site,” Cr Bradbery said.

“We have staff on site looking at short term ways to protect this area as we look at how best to preserve and care for it in the long term.”

/Public Release. View in full here.