Loch Sport launches yet another bid to solve erosion issue

Loch Sport residents Denise Warham and Tony Patchell at the boat ramp on Seagull Drive. Photo: Tom Parry

Residents of Loch Sport are still waiting for a solution to the ongoing erosion of the Lake Victoria foreshore.

The Northern foreshore, which runs adjacent to Seagull Drive, is continuing to wear away at an alarming rate, threatening the infrastructure and homes that border the beach.

Loch Sport Foreshore Committee secretary Tony Patchell has been lobbying for a solution for the past six years.

He first became aware of the erosion 10 years ago, after purchasing a home along the foreshore.

“I used to walk the (pedestrian) track from the end of Seagull Drive, all the way down to The Boulevard, and about two years after I was here, the cliff-face eroded and the track had disappeared completely,” Mr Patchell said.

“And that’s when I started to notice it was getting worse and worse.

“In front of my place … I noticed we were losing probably a metre (of foreshore) a year, or half-a-metre a year, because we’ve lost about four or five metres off the front there.”

Fellow resident Denise Warham is also concerned about the loss of land, and its impact on the environment.

“Maybe five years ago, we started to see big chunks coming off (the foreshore), and then when the big gum tree went, that was so noticeable,” Ms Warham said.

“And then you become aware that it’s not just the land you’re losing – you’re losing the trees as well, and the birds that are in those trees.”

The damage caused by erosion at Loch Sport is clear to see.
Photo: Tom Parry

The Gippsland Times has seen visual evidence showing the extent of the erosion over several years.

One photograph provided to the Times – taken in June 2019 – shows approximately five metres of sand separating the Seagull Drive carpark from the water’s edge.

Much of that sand has now been lost, with as little as one metre separating the carpark from the water.

Further evidence of erosion can be found right along the foreshore.

Trees that once grew in the embankments have fallen into Lake Victoria, the soil beneath them having been washed away.

Parts of the old pedestrian footpath, since realigned, have collapsed into the water.

To the east of the carpark, a drainage outlet once buried beneath the soil is exposed to the elements.

The old footpath has been washed away with the eroding foreshore.
Photo: Tom Parry

Erosion has long been an issue for Loch Sport, with residents having aired their concerns for over two decades – as early as 1998, a “Coastal Erosion Management Strategy” was drafted to address the issue.

In the years since, Wellington Shire Council has written to and met with the State Government regarding the issue, but no long-term solution has been agreed to.

Likewise, Loch Sport residents have put forward several proposals to the State Government to resolve the issue – including the construction of revetments, gabions, and groynes similar to those located further down the foreshore – without success.

Both Mr Patchell and Ms Warham acknowledge that such proposals are costly, but that the cost of inaction would be far greater.

Thankfully for them, their cause is not without its supporters.

Gippsland South MP, Danny O’Brien has been a vocal advocate for the community and its concerns.

Mr O’Brien recently raised the issue of erosion in State Parliament, asking the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio as to when the Government would take action.

“I’ve been writing to the Minister for over five years over these concerns and am regularly contacted by constituents in Loch Sport who are concerned about the continuing erosion,” Mr O’Brien said.

“We’ve already seen the need for funding to relocate the walking track in the Seagull Drive and Boulevard areas due to erosion and now the Seagull Drive carpark and toilet are even under threat.

“It’s a matter of time before there are further incursions onto public land and ultimately onto private land if action isn’t taken.”

Loch Sport residents Denise Warham and Tony Patchell examine the erosion on Seagull Drive.
Photo: Tom Parry

The State Government had previously promised to release a report on erosion at Loch Sport late last year.

The Gippsland Times understands that said report has been finalised, but is yet to be made public.

Because of the State Government’s inaction, Loch Sport residents have taken matters into their own hands and developed their own solutions.

As part of the Foreshore Committee, Mr Patchell has moved picnic tables and seating away from the foreshore and further inland, so as they don’t fall into the water.

Other anonymous members of the community have placed rocks and concrete slabs near the boat ramp on Seagull Drive – a move Mr Patchell has discouraged – in fear that it will wash away.

Even with temporary measures in place, the condition of the foreshore is predicted to worsen in the coming years.

Mr Patchell estimates that in the past twelve months alone, two metres of the foreshore has been lost to erosion.

If the foreshore continues to erode at this rate, residences could be impacted by as early as 2027.

Minister D’Ambrosio’s office was contacted for comment.

UPDATE, March 15: A spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has responded to questions from the Gippsland Times with the following statement:

“DELWP is working closely with the local community, local council and the Foreshore Committee to investigate solutions for the long-term management of erosion at Loch Sport.

“A final report on erosion and coastal processes in relation to the area is due in coming weeks which will help inform next steps and possible erosion mitigation measures.  

“We will continue to monitor the erosion to help minimise risk to the community and visitors.”

Rocks and concrete slabs are being placed by residents on the foreshore to stop the erosion.
Photo: Tom Parry

Please note: The original story incorrectly referred to Mr Patchell as Mr Armstrong, which has since been amended. The Gippsland Times apologies for the error.