DUNE: Erosion at Tallow Beach. Where is the sand going?
DUNE: Erosion at Tallow Beach. Where is the sand going?

Is our sand on the Goldy's beaches?

RECENTLY while out for a few slides I bumped into an old local.

After chatting about the good old days before The Bay was obsessed with tourism and money, as old blokes do, the conversation circled around to surfing, and then he dropped a bombshell that got me thinking.

Bear, he says, how long has it been since this place really lined up properly the way it used to? We both had a good think and agreed it's been a good 10 years.

So what changed? Tweed and Byron now rarely experience the sand build-up we once took for granted.

What's triggering all the erosion at Kingscliff, New Brighton, Belongil and Tallow beaches, to name just a few?

How come famous places like Cabarita, The Pass, Wategos, and Broken Head have not turned on as often as they used to?

Sure they've fired up at times, but they weren't famous for being average.

If you vaguely remember the waves being better and more consistent in the good old days you're not imagining it; that's how it was. We had more stable sand.

Sure these breaks have gotten good at times and, yes, sand has always come and gone - that's a given. But for a little more than a decade now our sandbanks have become increasingly unstable and more prone to quick erosion.

Intrigued by old mate's observations, I started to dig. Curiously enough, a little more than a decade ago is also the same time the Tweed River sand bypass started operations.

It's been dredging up sand from south of the Tweed River and dumping it to the north at Snapper Rocks and Coolangatta pretty much non-stop. Could we have a culprit here?

Byron Council has opted for planned retreat at Belongil and Tweed Shire is in a flap about Kingscliff.

The finger is squarely pointed at global warming with good reason. But why are we not also questioning the environmental impact of the Tweed River sand bypass?

It's a valid premise that in the past not all the sand from the Tweed River travelled north.

A great deal of it would have drifted south in the spring northerlies and currents, then replenish our beaches, explaining why we once had a more stable coastline.

It begs the question: does Gold Coast City Council actually have the legal right to just take all that sand and, if they do, who gave it to them? Maybe someone in power will read this and look a little deeper into it.

Okay, a quick look at the coming weekend's conditions. The highs are running the show. We could see some wind swell from the east to north-east de- veloping today around the 1-1.5m mark.

It may hold up until the weekend, but early morning offshore winds could push it flat, as often happens with wind swell.

So get in early just in case it doesn't last. The bureau says we can expect south-westerlies in the mornings and afternoon sea breezes.

There may be a few moments on the open beaches, but if you're looking for wave this weekend being fussy will not be an option.

Ben 'Bear' Bennink is a former professional longboarder and retired NSSA master coach. He writes for Pacific Longboarder Magazine and is semi-retired in Byron Bay where he is editor of inbyronbaytoday.com.

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