News State NSW News Houses at risk of collapse as large waves cause dangerous coastal erosion

Houses at risk of collapse as large waves cause dangerous coastal erosion

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Owners say damage to their Central Coast homes battered by strong swells was “totally avoidable” and comes after years of neglect by council.

Several beachfront homes at Wamberal are in danger of collapsing, and some residents have been evacuated, after a powerful low pressure system caused severe beach erosion.

Chris Rogers said engineers had attended his property and advised most of his front yard was unsafe.

“We’ve been smashed right across the board along the beach … this is the worst for us personally,” he said.

“There are 20 sets of stairs floating around out there, there is asbestos being spewed into the water … so the whole place is being destroyed.”

Several houses have their front verandahs suspended over the ocean below and huge rocks are strewn on the sand.

central coast erosion houses
This week’s low pressure system brought wild seas to the NSW coast. Photo: ABC

Locals told the ABC the erosion at Wamberal beach was the worst they had ever seen, though the coastal community have long grappled with the issue.

Cranes have brought large concrete blocks to help support the homes from the risk of landslide.

Mr Rogers said he’d been told his front yard could “slip away at any moment” as a result of rain or another storm surge.

Another resident, Gordon Cahill said he lost his balcony about 5pm on Thursday during the high tide.

“My place looks terrible but there’s a lot worse properties on the beach than mine.”

Both men were scathing of the Central Coast council, which they said had not done enough to help.

“Unfortunately we’ve been trying to get this fixed for the past 30-35 years and it just hasn’t happened,” Mr Cahill said.

“This is totally avoidable.”

central coast erosion
Wamberal resident Chris Rogers is angry at the local council. Photo: ABC

Mr Cahill said council had prevented residents from building structures to protect their own properties.

Mr Rogers said but had not put a permanent solution in place and the ongoing issue had been “very frustrating”.

“I think if this was a bushfire or if it was a flood and we weren’t talking about waterfront homes, everyone would be all over us [helping].

“I get people would say, ‘Well they shouldn’t have built there’, but the fact is we have been allowed to build here – we’re protecting our homes.”

The council’s director of environment planning Scott Cox admitted there was “a lot of anger” among residents.

“There’s a lot of frustration and a lot of anger and a lot of fear too because they don’t know what’s going to happen to their house,” Mr Cox said.

“This is a disaster zone and we want to work with them.

Mr Cox said council hoped to be on the beach within a week to undertake emergency work.

“I can’t authorise people to do work without approval … if residents with sound engineering advice need to do work to save their own home, council won’t be taking any action against them.”

central coast erosion
Gordon Cahill lost his balcony on Thursday. Photo: ABC

Margaret Brice, a resident and secretary of the Wamberal Protection Association, described the erosion damage as “more devastating every day”.

“We’re all anxious and frightened and quite frankly angry that we’ve come to this situation, which we knew was going to happen.

“People are so devastated that we’ve now lost our pristine beach and if those properties are lost the dune is going to be breached and the rest of Wamberal is under threat.”

The NSW State Emergency Service said some residents self-evacuated, with several homes at risk of structural collapse along the NSW coast.

Land has washed away from backyards, with a crane delivering huge concrete blocks to support a number of properties.

SES controller Rolf Garda said he had not seen this extent of erosion damage in the past 30 years.

“There’s always been impact on that area but for some reason this event has taken away far more land than we expected,” he said.

“The SES did some reconnaissance work up and down Ocean View Drive looking at some of the properties and we identified that some houses were pretty close to the slump line.

“We worked with council to walk up and down and talk to the residents and advised them of the potential dangers.”

The powerful surf conditions were caused by a low pressure system that moved in this week on the NSW coast, though fell short of being declared an east coast low.

In response to the dangerous system, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a hazardous surf warning for the NSW coast.

On Friday, the BOM said the warning remained for Byron Coast, Coffs Coast, Macquarie Coast, Hunter Coast, Sydney Coast, Illawarra Coast, Batemans Coast and Eden Coast.

“Surf and swell conditions are expected to be hazardous for coastal activities such as rock fishing, boating, and swimming,” it said.