Wollongong's City Beach has largely disappeared into the ocean, leaving behind a dramatic sheer sand cliff.
The erosion, also called scarping, is so severe a wooden walkway that usually leads beach users on a gently sloping stroll towards the waves now dangles loosely at a steep vertical angle.
Wollongong City Council manager of environmental strategy and planning Renee Campbell said the weather was largely to blame for creating the series of steep and high scarps along the main swimming area.
‘‘Over the last few months there have been a number of storm events that have caused large seas and this, combined with high tides, has resulted in scarps on the beach,’’ she said.
‘‘This is a natural process that occurs on beaches following storm events. Over time, the slope and height of the scarp reduces.’’
How City Beach looked in January. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER
In the short term there is no easy fix for the problem, with the size and extent of the scarps, and the prediction of high swell conditions over the weekend, making it unsafe to bring in heavy machinery, Ms Campbell said.
‘‘Council is currently preparing a Dune Management Strategy that will be completed later this year,’’ she said.
‘‘One of the issues this strategy will consider is options for the management of scarps.’’
Council lifeguards are still patrolling the beach, however beach users are urged to avoid some areas.
‘‘In the interests of public safety council has closed some of the access paths to this area of the beach,’’ Ms Campbell said.
Wollongong City Surf Life Saving Club president Michael Jennett said the club supported the council’s decision to limit public access to the area.
He said the scarping had made it difficult for lifesavers to get equipment on and off the beach.
‘‘It’s also restricted our ready abilities to train off the beach with surf boats and other equipment,’’ Mr Jennett said.
Although the weekend’s high swells could improve the situation, there was also a very real chance the scarping could worsen.
‘‘This depends on the sea levels, tides, and storm systems on the eastern coast,’’ Ms Campbell said. ‘‘Council staff will review the situation next week to assess options.’’
‘‘The dunal vegetation plays an important role in preventing undermining of foundations of infrastructure assets behind the dunal areas, such as surf clubs, cycleways and roads, which could occur as a result of major storm events,’’ she said.