Helping coastal managers plan for future storms

9 May 2018

The UQ School of Civil Engineering has teamed up with Geoscience Australia to develop a new tool kit that is helping coastal managers better understand how beaches are impacted by storm events.

UQ researchers Professor Tom Baldock, Dr David Callaghan and Uriah Gravois have collaborated with New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland State Governments to develop this new approach to estimating shoreline recession and beach erosion caused by storms, and particularly clusters of storms.

The Resilience to clustered disaster events at the coast: storm surge project, supported by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre has developed a comprehensive method for understanding the impact of storm events on beach environments.

This national project has focused on the NSW coast and Adelaide metropolitan beaches, but the open-sourced model developed by the team is transferable to anywhere in the country.

The two locations were selected for their specific ongoing management issues with coastal erosion.

On the central-north coast of New South Wales in Old Bar erosion is ongoing and has led to property loss in recent years, while Adelaide's metropolitan beaches have been actively managed for erosion since the 1970s, and continues to be managed through Adelaide's Living Beaches Strategy.

Old Bar beach
The actively eroding dune face at Old Bar, as seen in June 2015.

The models and information from the Old Bar project allow coastal managers to evaluate the impact of an event and to better respond to severe storms or multiple storm events.

James Guy from South Australia's Department for Environment and Water highlights the important role this project has played in building the body of knowledge around shoreline response to clustered storms.

"The new data, modelling tools and summary information for case study sites are essential reference materials for coastal managers," said Mr Guy.

He confirmed that the South Australian Department for Environment and Water will use the outcomes of this research to refine its annual beach replenishment program, which is used to maintain adequate storm buffers for the protection of infrastructure along the Adelaide coast.

UQ’s Professor Tom Baldock said the new tool kit has the potential to make a widespread impact on the Queensland coast, too.

“We expect the Queensland State Government to adopt this modelling approach in the future, helping coastal managers and consulting companies to work on more effective coastal management strategies,” he said.

“We also hope to work with the Sunshine Coast Council further on coastal management projects in our own back yard.”

The benefits and outcomes of this work were presented via a new Coastal Erosion StoryMap.