Four years ago, the small town of Seabird, north of Perth, was under threat from Nature.
The might of erosion was threatening the lives and homes of locals, causing distress and panic for most, and something had to be done.
Shire of Gingin CEO Aaron Cook says the council was receiving quite a lot of expressions of concern.
“We had increased contact from concerned locals, particularly those close to the beachfront,” he says.
“An emergency report was prepared and delivered by coastal engineers, outlining the magnitude of the issue and some possible remedies to the issue, with one being the rock seawall solution.”
The concept of a seawall was put to the townsfolk and there was an overwhelming response.
For Seabird Progress Association vice president Russell Kernahan, all the town wanted was action.
“We did not care what solutions or options the shire wanted to implement, we just wanted something done, and fast!” he says.
“The construction for the seawall itself took around six months to complete. We had a lot of trucks and machinery on the beach, however it was a small price to pay for the end result, being the 750-metre rock wall being put into place.”
The wall, which is made from rocks gathered nearby, was erected along a flat piece of beach, meaning some beachfront had to be lost.
“Some beachfront was sacrificed, however it meant houses were protected,” says Mr Kernahan.
During the build stage, the Progress Association request an extension of the wall of 60-metres further north, to further protect the town’s only beachside carpark and offer further protection for the local pub.
“We raised some funds through some temporary measures to save the houses, and when the state government announced it would fund the project, we contributed the leftover money to further extend the wall to further protect the carpark and the shire assets,” says Mr Kernahan.
Standing for four years now, the holding wall is a success and locals are breathing a sign of relief.
“During winter time, we usually see the water come all the way up to the edge of the cliff, however, with the wall in place, water isn’t coming as high up,” says Mr Kernahan.
“This winter been has to be one of the best we’ve had in regards to losing coastline to erosion as sea levels weren’t coming as far up the already reduced beach.”
According to Seabird Cafe owner Patsi Labuschange, the wall has been a double-edged sword.
“It definitely has lots of people who support it, but there are some people who do not, but overall, it has done its job to protect the parts it is meant to protect.”
For local resident Bob Cousins however, the wall has been a great saviour to the houses and business along the wall, but not for all.
“We have seen improvements in where the wall is sure, but we have seen some slight increases in erosion north of the wall,” he says.
“If you look north of the wall towards the caravan park, you can see further erosion has occurred, due to the wall not offering its protection here.”
Following the construction of the wall, locals also planted new vegetation and, in partnership with the shire, continue to work on maintaining and protecting the area with a large number of signs and fences being put in place to ensure people do not walk on the wall.
In the last 12 months alone, the shire has reported only three rocks being dislodged. Mr Cook believes the wall can last far longer than its estimated lifespan.
“I think with continued monitoring, conservation and maintenance, as well as checks by coastal engineers regularly, the wall can last for far beyond the 20 year estimation,” he says.
“Not only is it the first of its kind in Western Australia, but it is a viable solution to erosion, and other councils should see it as a potential example.”
“Obviously not all areas are best suited for a erosion wall. We were lucky to have a pre-existing flat beach to place it on, so this solution may not work for every beach, but it sure can serve as an example.”
After the success of the seawall, the Seabird Progress Association wants to see further actions implemented to protect the already endangered coastline.
After close consultation with coastal engineers, the Association is pushing to install seven groynes along the rock wall, to further shield the beachfront from the dangers of erosion.
“The groynes will start at the end of the wall in the south and will end in line with the Seabird caravan park, to offer it some further protection from the erosion,” says Mr Kernahan.
“We have provided plans and detailed outlines to the shire and government and now we just have to wait for funding, so hopefully this is a project which can be implemented in the future.”
“With the Premier pledging protection to erosion hotspot areas, our chances are good.”