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Sand heads towards Byron Bay Main Beach after significant erosion

This aerial image from June shows the build-up of sand near The Pass and Clarkes Beach. (Supplied: Nearmap)

Posted on September 29, 2021

Byron Shire Council is hopeful that the worst of the erosion in Byron Bay is over, with satellite imagery showing sand is gradually moving back towards Main Beach.

mages from recent months shows a “slug” of sand has moved around The Pass and is sitting in the water at Clarkes Beach.

Biodiversity and sustainability coordinator Chloe Dowsett said she was hopeful that it was a sign the situation was changing.

“It’s actually been quite slow,” she said.

An aerial image of the main beach and Clarkes Beach at Byron Bay shows higher water tides and less sand along the beach.
This image from January 2021 shows how much sand was lost from Byron Bay’s beaches after king tides and storms in December 2020. (Supplied: Nearmap)

Storm season looms

Tom Murray from the Coastal and Marine Research Centre at Griffith University said the beach is in a better position now than it was 12 months ago, but the changes were not visible from shore.

“A lot of the sand that’s creating a buffer for expected storms this summer is below the low tide mark, so when people go for a walk on the beach, you’re not seeing a lot of the actual sand buffer that is in the bay at the moment,” he said.

Trees and rocks litter the sand between Clarks Beach and the Byron Bay township.
The erosion has cut into the dunes, causing trees to collapse and die. (ABC North Coast: Bruce MacKenzie)

Dr Murray said the upcoming storm season might cause more erosion, but the newly arrived sand would help protect the beach.

“The BOM is forecasting a very likely chance of La Nina this summer, which generally is conducive to higher energy waves and more erosion,” he said.

Ms Dowsett said the main beach and the dunes would still need significant intervention to recover more quickly.

Byron Shire Council has applied to the state government to help fund the work, which would include beach scraping and dune revegetation.

Locals inspect trees that are uprooted on the beach at Byron Bay.
Erosion has been happening in Byron Bay for several years, but a storm in late 2020 caused significant damage. (AAP: Dan Peled)

Long-term concern

The erosion happened over the course of several years, with natural processes and sand movements explaining much of it.

One of the most significant erosion events for Byron Bay happened in December 2020 when a combination of king tides, heavy rain, and big surf swept away large swathes of sand during a storm.

Ms Dowsett said that event was unprecedented but not unexpected.

“We do know and we have known for years that this area of the bay is undergoing long-term shoreline recession as well,” she said.

Byron Shire Council is working with stakeholders to develop a Coastal Management Program, which Ms Dowsett said would play a crucial role in managing erosion and the health of the beach ecosystem.


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