November 21 - 27, 2021: Issue 519


Collaroy seawall prompts calls for residents to join in drawing a line in the sand

Surfrider Foundation Northern Beaches photo

There is a growing belief in our area that the council now in charge is absolutely trashing the place, without any genuine consultation or taking into account feedback when seeking the same, or following what it has stated it will do.

These concerns commenced with the destruction of and removal of trees at Bilgola beach in November 2019 when it was stated they would be retained, have been witnessed in the sudden appearance of concrete paths where no one wanted them in parks, accompanied by statements these have been installed to provide access for people in wheelchairs or prams when the path then leads to a series of concrete steps, or have facilitated subsuming these once green places into a bike plan, and in doing so have stopped these places from being a park people could stop and play safely into transport thoroughfares, to the ubiquitous roll out of concrete on foreshores that is exacerbating erosion and destroying public areas.

The latest is yet more concrete and sandstone block walls on the beachfront at Avalon, beside the surf club’s northernmost wall. 

A query to Council to please remit an overview of the below signage images at Avalon Beach in the corner next to the dunes and project announced via this signage of; when was this progressed, does it relate to the Avalon Place Plan and when and where was feedback sought on this particular project? received the following response -

Council has completed landscaping works at the reserve adjacent to Avalon Surf Life Saving Club as part of its foreshore renewal program.

The landscaping works include a new path, returfing, sandstone edging, new bin stations, drinking fountain, bike hoops, a timber ramp a new shower tower and garden beds.

Works began in May and were completed in September.  

Prior to commencing works, Council consulted with Avalon Beach SLSC and Avalon Preservation Association who were supportive of the project. Concept plans were publicly displayed to inform the community and provide an opportunity for questions or comments. They were just displayed at the beach. This project is not related to the draft Avalon Place Plan. 

Attributable to CEO Ray Brownlee;

We continue to improve public spaces across the Northern Beaches through our foreshore renewal program. The recently completed landscaping works at Avalon Beach will make the beachfront reserve a more enjoyable, safe and accessible space for all local residents and visitors.”

Entering the words 'foreshore renewal program' into the council website search function in both the Projects and main menu brings up two results in the main site; one is about a new boat ramp at Bilarong Reserve, the other a historical reference to the Manly Art Gallery. In the projects section there are more, but no 'foreshore renewal program' -  'Western Foreshore Parking Permits and a 'Clontarf Reserve Masterplan', which involves putting more concrete and rubber into that green space, are your foremost options to explore.

The signage which provides an opportunity for questions and comments:

The resulting safety ramp and coloured concrete (path down to parking area not completed as per signage, similar to the bridge across Careel Creek to connect the play-courts with the skate ramp?):

As the calls to reinstall green areas to cool everything down grow, the reflective heat and impact on the surrounding environment of continuously rolling out concrete and sandstone, without any real consultation and despite the community calling for ‘no more concrete’, has many in Pittwater stating this is a sneaky attempt to ‘Dee Why’ the place, or a blatant smear north of what abides south so they appear to look similar, even if vastly different places and peoples. 

On Friday, 6 August 2021 the council published ‘’Council Provides Facts On The Collaroy Residents’ Seawall’’ where Item 4 states; 'The current works are entirely on private land'

However, a February 20th, 2019 document by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, ‘Notice of compulsory acquisition of land in the local government area of Narrabeen’ states;

‘The area of land 20m wide bound to the east by a line parallel to the eastern boundaries of Lots 6 to 8 Section 13 DP 111254, Lots 1 to 5 DP 10757, Lot 1 DP 121939, Lot A DP 167490 and Lot 1 DP 170202 and bound to the north by the prolongation of the northern boundary of Lot 8 Section 13 DP 111254 to the east and bound to the south by the prolongation of the southern boundary of Lot 1 DP 170202 to the east as indicated by hatching on the diagram below.’ 

And corresponding webpage states;

‘’ The DA is for a sloping rock revetment seawall, around 210 metres in length and 15 metres wide. The proposed structure, if approved, would encroach on Crown land by around 15 metres from property boundaries…’’


‘’ The department has granted landowner’s consent for the DA to be assessed by Northern Beaches Council, which is required under Environmental Planning Assessment Regulations 2000.

Landowner’s consent is not development approval. It is only the first step in the planning assessment.

Should the DA be approved by Northern Beaches Council, the department will then begin negotiations on an appropriate tenure for the occupation of Crown land.’’

The Guardian Australia published a photo on October 24th, 2021 by Lewis Isaacs that shows how far east from the boundaries of private land this wall has been built. The report, 'A 7m wall has gone up on a Sydney beach: are we destroying public space to save private property?' reveals that distressed property owners have a 300 thousand dollar bill to meet for their part of this wall. 

Page 11, of the September 28, 2021 council meeting records that Cr Harrison and Cr Regan resolved that, in accordance with Section 356 of the Local Government Act (1993), Council provides additional financial assistance of $33,612.88 (inc GST) to the owners of 1172 Pittwater Road, Collaroy on the basis that Council’s design change to its coastal protection works at Wetherill Street have increased the cost of private coastal protection works for this property. This was Resolved by Exception. 

A peaceful demonstration organised by the Surfrider Foundation Northern Beaches will occur at 4pm on Saturday November 27th 2021 as residents re-enact their 2002 Line in the Sand. 

Brendan Donohoe, President of the local chapter, which has been fighting against the construction of a seawall for three decades, stated this week that it beggars belief that this was what the best research could come up with.

"It's just atrocious - and really disappointing," Brendan said ''This will, literally destroy the beach. It is well known, and evidence shows where these walls have been installed elsewhere, that they cause erosion.''

On November 17, 2002 the first Line in the Sand demonstration occurred. Brendan said then the sea wall being proposed by Warringah Council to prevent beach erosion reaching houses and units on dunes along Pittwater Road would dump 85,000 tonnes of sandstone on the beach, at a cost of $12 million.

"Sea walls do nothing to ensure the ongoing conservation of the beach in front of them," he said. "Worldwide experience shows us they actively destroy it."

Mr Donohoe called on the council to abandon the plan and solve the problem by either buying back properties at sensitive points along the beach or employing sand nourishment, in which sand is built back up to levels that prevent erosion.

Referring to the Bibles' advice to not build on sand is possibly moot by now, but as this stretch from Long Reef to Narrabeen Lagoon has always been a dune system, and the sea has always reached to the toes of the hills prior to the installation of medium density to high rise housing right along that stretch, could it have been prevented to begin with? - apparently so according to this discussion from 1912 when that stretch from Collaroy to the lagoon was all known as 'Narrabeen' to many, and from the same year the tram to Collaroy was opened, and then extended to Narrabeen Lagoon the next year:



Sir-I recently visited the beautiful stretch of Narrabeen Beach and delighted In the glorious sight of rolling breakers on Its magnificent expanse. My delight however was considerably marred when I noticed the encroachments on the beach by privately owned land. It is a crime that this glorious heritage should have been parted with and It is a still more serious neglect that in view of its newly begotten fame it should still be in the power of private persons to monopolise the frontage.

It must be resumed at all costs unless the present generation is to allow posterity to curse our lack of foresight or our meanness.

If Mr Griffith has gained credit for the building of the tramway he would obtain same by acting strongly and fearlessly In resuming all the land between the road and the beach. The few buildings on the land need not be interfered with and they would return good interest on the money. I notice some of these frontages are to be sold. I sincerely hope, as a country visitor to Sydney and one having no vested interests of any kind in the locality, that the Government will see fit to resume this and other fair spots at Narrabeen and about the city.

It is not Sydney alone that benefits. The surrounding beauty spots of Sydney are the heritage of the State and of Australia. The name of Sydney reaches throughout Australia and other countries and visitors from the country districts of our own and other States flock in hundreds of thousands to it annually for recreation and change.

The Government annually reaps thousands of pounds through the very attractiveness of Sydney. Is it not businesslike then as well as statesmanlike, for the Government to conserve and retain, and where necessary resume when our beauty spots and foreshores are threatened?  In years to come Narrabeen will be a thickly populated seaside resort and with proper foresight it can be made delightfully attractive. The frontages now held privately at Narrabeen offer special facilities for a similar esplanade of Norfolk Island pines as at Manly but if the private ownership remains the bench will be lined with back yards fences and jerry-built cottages, crammed close together so as to accommodate week-enders. There there are hundreds of acres of vacant land about for building purposes without encrouching on the beach frontage. Perhaps Your own and abler pens than mine will take this matter up and stop the desecration of this valuable and priceless beach.

I am, etc


Wagga- Wagga, Aug 26. 

NARRABEEN BEACH. (1912, August 27). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved from

At the 2021 Avalon Preservation Association AGM, Eminent local coastal engineer Angus Gordon stated that sea level rise will threaten a number of local beaches unless appropriate action is undertaken.

Mr Gordon, who was Pittwater Council’s General Manager for nine years, said that coastal erosion was a natural phenomenon caused by wave and wind action and that sea level rise would accelerate that underlying trend. Even with a relatively stable coastline for the last 7,000 years, the sea level had gone up and down by one to two metres during that time, he said.

However, the problem now was that we had built “non-adaptive assets in harm's way”, he told the Avalon Preservation Association’s Annual General Meeting.

Mr Gordon said the Northern Beaches Council was working on current projections for erosion but that local surf clubs should be moved back from the front of the dunes when they are rebuilt. 

“The new Mona Vale surf club toilet block is where water washed it away in (the massive storms of) 1974,” Mr Gordon told the meeting.

“If we had another 1974 event, I suspect at this beach and Bilgola, Collaroy, and Narrabeen we could see some pretty nasty outcomes. We have quite a lot of infrastructure and residential developments that are too close.”   

Collaroy beachfront, June 2016. Photo: A J Guesdon

He said the Avalon Beach Surf Lifesaving Club should also have been moved back from the shore when it was rebuilt and that he hoped “that Newport listens” when that club carries out renovations.

“The state government was at fault because it needed to change the Local Government Act to give councils more power to act,” Mr Gordon said.

Beach before Avalon Beach SLSC clubhouse after July 2020 storm. Photo: A J Guesdon.

Of this wall Angus says; “A nineteenth century response to a 21st Century problem... A step back in time to the non-environmental brutalist engineering solutions of the 1900s.”

The science behind all this is easy to understand and has been well known for generations.

Beaches use their dunes to replenish sand and recover from erosion events - it's a natural cycle. Dunes are nature's seawalls, they act like the lungs of a beach, breathing in and out with the tides. Sand is deposited, washed away over and over.

For the vast swathes of Australia’s uninhabited shoreline this is a dynamic, natural process. 

When humans build seawalls on beaches to protect private property and infrastructure, they harden the coast and remove its ability to recover naturally. Scientists worldwide have shown through their work that vertical seawalls protect land property in the short-term but, eventually, destroy beaches, and then what's behind these walls. They increase the loss.

Not only that, this will impact on the wildlife that comes ashore here to rest - historically this is known as a place where fairy penguins once bred. They have also been seen off the beach in recent days, as have seals coming ashore to rest - imagine them trying to manoeuvre this wall - or being smashed up against it.

There's a great report on how the Collaroy-Narrabeen dune system has been put at risk in They’ve Kerbed And Guttered Narrabeen Beach” by Sean Doherty, October 30, 2021, in Surfline

What needs to happen now is to save what's left. 

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW has a current petition available online calling on the council to NOT extend this wall any further north, while others will turn up next Saturday at 4pm to place a A Line in the Sand.

Details are:

Drawing a line in the sand in 2002. Surfrider Foundation Northern Beaches photo.