COASTAL erosion is inevitable and must be addressed with counter measures—but who’s going to pay for them?
Fremantle council wants to find out and on Wednesday night finalised its response to the WA Planning Commission’s guidelines on whether to fight or retreat against the rising tide.
The document outlines steps WA councils can take to combat rising sea levels, which include developing further away from the coast and buying back privately owned land that is directly threatened by erosion.
But Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt says the WAPC document does not specify who is going to foot the bill.
“We were very clear in our response to them that this is not an issue that can simply be hand-balled to the local government by the state government,” he says.
“These are issues of great importance and they will need to be funded by state or federal governments as well as local.”
Currently, the coastline from Port Beach to Mosman Park is under threat, and Dr Pettitt says the answer isn’t in short-term sea walls or sand bags.
“The heart of our response is that the best planning response is actually retreat; by retreat we need to give really generous setbacks that allow the natural process of what will be beach erosion to occur,” he says.
“We’re really strong on that as the primary response, as opposed to looking at sea walls, etc. We need long-term planning that addresses rising sea levels.”
But it’s not just our beaches at stake.
According to Coastal Risk Australia, Fremantle will see a 75cm sea rise by 2100 and most of Fremantle Harbour, Esplanade Park and the city’s west end will be affected.
Dr Pettitt says “obviously where we have buildings already that’s unfortunately going to provide greater challenges and we don’t know the answers to that yet”.
He added that the council doesn’t “want mistakes of the past to be repeated again”, referring to the town of Seabird where roads and public parks have been engulfed by rising tides.
“Structures need to be set a long way back,” Dr Pettitt says.
“That was the problem with Seabird, they allowed buildings to be too close to the coast and that’s why they’re in that situation.”
The WAPC says the guidelines when finalised will “help ensure ongoing sustainable management of the coastline for the benefit of the whole community”, but says funding “would need to be considered on a case by case basis”.
by EMILEE NEESON