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Image 1 for Sea levels, and heads in the sand

Dave Colburn, without a worry in the world, out front of the Stormageddon erosion at Collary. The shot after this one ran as our Contents spread back in Volume 19 Number 2. PIC: MARK ONORATI @markonorati

Image 2 for Sea levels, and heads in the sand

After a big storm in 2016, houses sitting on the beachfront at NSW's Collaroy washed away. Pic: Peter Rae

Image 3 for Sea levels, and heads in the sand

Collaroy resident Garry Silk standing on the site where a row of beachside properties received severe erosion during the storm surges. Pic: James Brickwood

Sea levels, and heads in the sand

12 June 19

From the Sydney Morning Herald: Half the people on NSW coast don't think rising sea levels will hurt them. The coastline is retreating and beachfront homes have been damaged in recent years, but half of the people who live, play or work on the NSW coast do not believe rising sea levels will affect their lives.

Three years after a king tide left Collaroy mansions on the brink of collapse, a new report shows that while 85 per cent of coastal users believe the sea level is rising, a staggering 50 per cent do not think it will impact them.

The researchers from the University of NSW said the finding was worrying because the communities' understanding of rising sea levels - which are driving coastal erosion and inundation - can shape their coastal adaptation efforts, and determine their success.

One person among the 50 per cent who do believe rising sea levels will have an impact is Garry Silk, whose beachfront property on Collaroy Beach "got walloped" in the 2016 storms.

Mr Silk and his neighbours are planning to build a revetment - a three-metre high pile of rocks - to reduce the impact of severe coastal storms.

"We've got a development application and the council and state government will be giving us a grant; the council has been very supportive," he said.

"I believe in climate change, but I also believe these massive storms come regularly; I'm not saying they're getting worse, but it's a long-running sore."

Eight-metre waves pummelled the NSW coast and a king tide damaged beachfront properties at Collaroy during the June 2016 storm, triggering debate over coastal management and legislative changes.

Professor Rob Brander, a coastal geomorphologist at UNSW, said: "Many locations along the NSW coast are seeing amenity loss and infrastructure damage associated with erosion and inundation – that is, the flooding of normally dry land by sea water, often caused by storms surges or king tides.''

"These storm events will continue in the future. Combined with anticipated sea level rise, they’ll only enhance the extent and cost of coastal erosion damage and lead to greater inundation of coastal zones."

The state government-funded MyCoast NSW study, involving 1000 respondents, found 45 per cent of general coastal users mistakenly thought the violent storm in 2016 occurred every 20 years, when there were similar storms in 2015 and 2007.

They also surveyed coastal accommodation businesses and found 25 per cent didn't think or were unsure whether the sea level was rising and 38 per cent didn't think it would impact them.

"The findings are a worry given that estimates suggest that by 2100, sea level rise could increase by a metre or more if greenhouse gas emissions continue unchanged," co-author Anna Attard said.

She said the sea level rise would affect everybody. 

"Rising sea levels mean far-reaching impacts on people’s transport, infrastructure, sewerage and water, to name just a few examples." 

She said the most important finding was the disconnect between what coastal management professionals thought the public should know about coastal hazards, and what the public flagged as wanting to know more about.

"General coastal users told us that would like to know more about how climate change will impact their immediate coast and what the possible solutions are," she said.

She said in order for coastal initiatives to work, the community needed to have a better understanding and support, and both the professionals and the public needed to work together to reach a "mutually acceptable solution".





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