Belongil Beach aerial
Belongil Beach aerial David Nielsen

Crunch time for coastal erosion

THE FRAUGHT issues of climate change and coastal planning will be thrashed out at a state conference being held in Ballina this week.

Dr Nick Holmes, an adjunct professor at Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus, will be one of the keynote speakers at this week’s NSW Coastal Conference.

Dr Holmes, who has more than 40 years experience in environmental science, said there was ‘little room for error’ when it came to dealing with the subject of climate change.

“People are now beginning to get a bit worried,” he said.

“We’ve got increased sea levels and increased coastal erosion, yet three-quarters of the population lives within 50km of the coast.”

The conference starts in Ballina tomorrow, with more than 250 people expected to attend.

Dr Holmes will talk about the ‘conflicts in coastal management’ and how those conflicts can be resolved.

“The thing is, everyone has different views of the problems and how to solve them,” he said.

“But we have to ensure we are making the right decisions about managing the coast.

“Various stakeholders have to come to some kind of common ground.”

Dr Holmes completed his PhD on marine ecology in the 1960s, and has since worked as a marine biologist and coastal manager.

“I have noticed quite a lot of changes along the coast. There is reduced diversity of plants and animals. The coast is under pressure,” he said.

“If we try to project ourselves 30 years into the future, then our coasts are going to look very different.”

Dr Holmes said that the House of Representatives’ recent report on climate change would be a ‘hot topic’ at this week’s Ballina conference.

“We should have been doing something sooner,” he said.

“We have seen the data, we have seen the evidence. But there are still some people who don’t agree that it (climate change) is happening.

“The point is that it won’t be seen as a real problem until there is some sort of disaster.

“Our society is not sustainable at the moment.

“We are outgrowing the house, as it were.”

Speaking on the erosion problems at Byron Bay’s Belongil Beach, Dr Holmes said that it was something that affected the entire North Coast.

“If landowners do something to protect their property, that work will shift the problem to some other part of the coast. It’s not necessarily a clear-cut thing,” he said.

“But if the property is at risk then who is going to bear the cost if worse comes to worst?

“It is really asking a lot of individual homeowners to defend their own properties.

“I suspect that, in the end, we will have to come up with a community approach and people will have to move.”

The NSW Coastal Conference will be held at the Ballina RSL from tomorrow until Friday.

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