Precedent: Collaroy residents to get state subsidy for sea walls

Northern Beaches mayor Michael Regan said delays by the state government had been inexcusable. Council had fought «every step of the way» because of the lack of precedents for the state to assist individual property owners.

«It’s been a long road for these residents since the storm – worrying every time another storm was forecast.»

As well as helping residents with development applications, council had come to an agreement with Crown Lands so that it would submit applications on residents’ behalf where a sea wall might encroach on public land.

The council would also spend $11 million to build a 250-metre long strip of sea wall in front of the Collaroy car park, and at the ends of roads stopping at the beach.

The sea wall would be built at the rear of residential properties. It won’t be vertical, but a sloping mound most likely covered in sand.

Critics say it is subsidising wealthy homeowners. But the wall will prevent erosion of the public beach and protect Pittwater Road, a main thoroughfare on the northern beaches.

Resident Garry Silk, whose home was damaged in the storm, said the council had been supportive.

«We are so lucky compared with other places to the north, including Byron Bay, where residents are getting no support and councils are obstructing them,» he said.

A development approval to build a $1.7 million sea wall in front of 10 properties — including Mr Silk’s home — was approved last year. It averages $150,000 for each property owner with a 10-metre wide beach frontage.

Other homeowners are still waiting.


Residents originally asked for a subsidy of 75 per cent of costs. Now the final package would see residents pay 80 per cent.

Experts say sea walls only work if they are continuous, high quality and integrated.

If there is a break in the wall, it can increase the risk of damage to a resident who may have chosen not to build a wall, because the neighbouring walls act as a funnel concentrating water through the gaps.

Mr Silk said some owners couldn’t afford to build.

«We’ve got to work out how to get around that,» he said. He had proposed a form of subsidised loans, but so far nothing had been developed.

Cr Regan was «quietly confident» that every resident would participate for their «own peace of mind».

The resale cost of a home protected by a sea wall was in the millions, while one without would be worth a fraction.

A report on the viability of the sea wall by the Manly Hydraulics Laboratory found Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach was the most at risk from coastal processes in NSW and the third most at risk nationally. It recommended the proposed sea wall be aligned as far landward as practicable.

Julie Power is a senior journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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