Eroding confidence in coastal parks

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It is no secret that some of our prime coastal caravan parks are being picked off by developers eager to cash in on what are perceived to be more lucrative tourism markets. For example, it has just been announced that the Palm Grove van park on the doorstep of Broome’s iconic Cable Beach in Western Australia is to be bulldozed and luxury apartments built on the site. In the long term though, it seems our magnificent beachfront parks could be facing an even more sinister threat …Mother Nature herself.

The desperate efforts to stop huge erosion problems at the caravan park at Kingscliff in northern New South Wales are a dramatic illustration of the effects of climate change. Over the past year or more, huge chunks of the park have simply fallen into the ocean and the town’s beach has all but disappeared. Sandbags can only help so much It is not an isolated problem, and the Federal Government has announced it is to spend some $150,000 to investigate whether many more coastal caravan parks could soon be struggling to keep their heads above water … literally.

Victoria’s Western Coastal Board will use the funding to examine the possible economic effects of climate change on caravan parks and their surrounding areas. As part of the study, researchers will survey nearly 2000 caravan park patrons and locals in areas such as Port Fairy, Lorne, Barwon Heads, Portarlington, Warrnambool and Port Campbell. Over this last winter, large waves caused significant coastal erosion between Apollo Bay and Skenes Creek and sand around infrastructure like the Great Ocean Road and stormwater outlets was washed away.

The Otway Coast Committee was so concerned it asked the Victorian Government to fund an engineered solution to the ongoing problems. Western Coastal Board’s Steve Blackley says coastal caravan parks often border estuaries and beaches, which are particularly at risk from climate change.

“Those environments are susceptible to flooding, erosion and winds,” he said. “We’re not really looking at the physical impacts but more at what effects climate change might have economically and how that can be managed.”

The final report on the issue is due out in June.

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