Implement a dune plan, says community group
A dune management plan should be implemented for the entire length of Ocean Beach, from the southern corner of Umina Beach around to Ettalong, according to the Umina Beach Community Group.
In a submission to Central Coast Council's Coastal Zone Management Plan, the group has recommended that "the existing dune structure, which protects the beach and assets beyond the beach, be maintained; development on the dune protecting the beach be restricted by development controls; and a dune management plan be implemented to sustain and enhance the current dune structure and ecosystem."
Group vice-president Mr Rod Unsworth said: "The most important thing we've got to understand is the stability of the beach, the maintenance of the beach, is definitely contributed to by the dunes themselves.
"When the dunes have got native vegetation stabilising them, the beach is protected during king tides and surges," Mr Unsworth said.
Beach access has been a priority for the group and several signposted Council walkways have remained closed between the sandbag wall along The Esplanade and the Ocean Beach Surf Life Saving clubhouse, he said.
"We have focused our work around the beach access points at South St, and at Berith St," he said.
"There are still some closed walkways there but I think the Council is doing a good job to focus on having continuous beach access.
"From the Umina Beach Community Group's point of view, one of our key priorities is to maintain good access because these beaches are a treasure.
"They are some of the safest beaches on our coastline for children and families and we want to make sure we've got suitable access all along the beach."
The main walkways through the dunes to the beachfront have been designed with dog-legs to prevent inundation of the dunes during gales and storm surges.
"The walkways don't follow a direct line that could be eroded by weather conditions so those entrances can be available, accessible and not cause any denudation of the dunes," he said.
He said that both the Umina community and Central Coast Council have endeavoured to strike a sustainable balance between the best possible ongoing beach access and maintaining the health of the dune system.
"I think that we have excellent beach access at Umina Surf Club, Berith St and South St.
"Then we've got to do our best to maintain the health of the dune and do our best to get rid of species like lantana and plant native species that will stabilise the dune so the strongest access points will be maintained forever."
According to Mr Unsworth, the community group's first recommendation to Council, that the existing dune structure be maintained is already in play.
"It is happening through volunterers and it is ongoing," he said.
Members of the group have been active as volunteers working on maintaining the dunes.
The local dunecare, landcare and bushcare plans are within a broader management plan being implemented by volunteers in collaboration with Central Coast Council.
"It is a tripartite effort: Federal Government funds flow through to NSW Landcare and then to the Council and volunteers.
"This is a collaborative community effort which we strongly encourage."
Mr Unsworth said: "We would say development restriction is important so we don't put structures on the dunes that could denude vegetation.
"That could include any man-made structures, such as structures which allow greater access into the dunes.
"It is important the dunes don't have people walking through them willy-nilly.
The sandbag wall built along The Esplanade to fix the erosion and road damage caused by the April 2016 East Coast Low has been a success, according to Mr Unsworth.
"I think it has been successful to a limited extent in so far as that area has been stabilised," he said.
The Umina-based community organisation has actively debated and discussed the whole of the marine ecosystem "but we are not actively pursuing the matter of the channel access to Brisbane Water.
"Obviously from an economic and tourist point of view it is essential we have the maintenance of the ferry service and access to the waterway so we would encourage the authorities responsible for looking after the waterway to make sure that ferry access is maintained," he said.
"This beach has been used ever since the Woy Woy rail arrived in the late 1800s so we've got a wonderful heritage of 120 years of utilisation of these beautiful beaches," he said.
The Umina Beach Community Group has about 60 active members.
"We do have a stalwart group of volunteers but we would love to see more people come down.
"They will receive training and development, a hat, sunscreen and insect repellent," he said.
The local dunecare groups meet every third Thursday at Berith St at 8am, and then at South St 2pm.
The Peninsula Dunecare group has its meetings on Saturdays.
Interview, 18 Jan 2016
Rod Unsworth, Umina Beach Community Group
Reporter: Jackie Pearson