City fails in duty of care, say affected residents

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
Coastal erosion along Whitehall Road, Drummond Cove, pictured in late May.
Camera IconCoastal erosion along Whitehall Road, Drummond Cove, pictured in late May. Credit: Adam Poulsen, The Geraldton Guardian

Some Sunset Beach residents are unhappy with the amount of community consultation surrounding the City of Greater Geraldton’s draft Coastal Hazard Risk Management Adaptation Planning (CHRMAP) report.

The 485-page document, released for public comment in June, highlights the potential impact of coastal erosion and inundation along Geraldton’s 30km coastline.

FIFO worker Peter Teale’s house on the west side of Volute Street is one of 57 properties in Sunset Beach at high risk of impact by 2070.

Concerned that others may not know about the potential risks of coastal erosion, Mr Teale and his wife went doorknocking to talk about the issue.

“A lot of residents were unaware of the CHRMAP report and how it impacted them,” he said.

“The report is hard to understand — the average Joe isn’t going to get a grip of it.

“The City have gone straight to getting submissions without explaining to the community what it means to them.”

But City chief executive Ross McKim said the release of the draft CHRMAP report for public comment is community consultation.

“The City has been proactive in ensuring the community is able to access information promptly,” he said.

“To assist community members in understanding the report, Executive Summaries written in layman terms have been included in both Part 1 and Part 2 of the document.

“The City has also provided the community with the contact details of staff who are able to respond to questions regarding the content of the report.

“Although community information sessions are not scheduled at this time, the City has responded to requests from the community for more time to review the report by extending the 42 day public comment period to 60 days.”

After researching the area, the Teale family moved into their home in 2015 and have since invested over $130,000 in renovations.

At the time of their purchase, Mr Teale said they were never made aware of the potential threat of coastal erosion.

VideoThe erosion predicted for Gold Coast beaches with the year's highest tide so far failed to eventuate.

In October 2017, the father-of-one attended the City’s Coastal Adaptation Planning workshop where participants were asked to highlight areas they valued highly.

The summary report from the workshop shows that Sunset Beach residents valued their properties, beaches and the sand dunes the most.

Residents noted they would prefer the area was protected with artificial reefs, Geotextile Sand Containers and sand re-nourishment. But the draft CHRMAP report suggests a managed retreat for Sunset Beach, where the City would acquire properties as they’re affected.

According to the document, the 149 properties potentially impacted in Sunset Beach (by 2110) are valued at $36.1 million, based on an average property value of $242,000.

Mr Teale said he was disappointed the community’s views were ignored. “We said it was a high priority to protect the assets in the area and that it’d be a catastrophic risk if we lost them,” he said.

“There’s a duty of care to do their best to protect these houses and saying it’s too hard to get funding is not really an option to community members.”

Mr Teale and a few neighbours have created a generic feedback form for Sunset Beach residents, which directly references the draft CHRMAP report.

The submission notes the document doesn’t reflect last year’s community workshops.

To submit feedback on the draft CHRMAP report, visit cgg.wa.gov.au. Submissions close 4pm on Monday, September 3.

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