NEARLY 270 homes in Port Fairy are at risk of inundation from the ocean and hundreds more are in the path of rising sea levels over the coming decades, according to a long-awaited study.
The Local Coastal Hazard Assessment report given to Moyne Shire and set to be made public today has raised the prospect that hundreds of homes along Port Fairy’s East Beach and South Beach could have the ocean encroaching on their doorstep.
Researchers from the University of New South Wales say 270 homes are currently “vulnerable” to coastal flooding, but warn this number could jump to 390 by 2080 if sea levels rise by 80 centimetres because of climate change.
The findings pose big questions over the future of Port Fairy’s multi-million-dollar waterfront mansions.
Academics and consultants have spent two years studying 22 kilometres of coastline between Killarney and Cape Reamur on the western side of Port Fairy.
The study singled out East Beach as the most at-risk area of coastline in the holiday town.
The study also found:
. that East Beach is receding at 0.1 to 0.3 metres a year, as it has been over the past 150 years;
. with current protections in place, about 30 buildings are vulnerable in the area; and
. if the seawall was to fail, the number of homes at risk would increase to about 120.
The number of vulnerable buildings is expected to leap to 90 buildings by 2080 and could even increase to 200 if the wall fails.
The report also rules out opening the south-west passage causeway to Griffiths Island as a remedy to the East Beach erosion problem, warning greater wave action would cause headaches for boats and vessels using the river.
No homes are listed at risk along South Beach or Pea Soup but by 2100 about 122 could be in danger.
Moyne Shire director of environmental services Oliver Moles told The Standard that council would release the report and hold a public information session on June 13 from noon to 7pm, with coastal engineers on hand to discuss the study.
At last night’s monthly Moyne Shire meeting, councillors urged caution, after voting unanimously to release the report.
“It’s only going to be a few metres into sand dunes — it’s not going to be catastrophic,” Cr James Purcell said, adding people should compare the findings to the global threat.
“We shouldn’t be over dramatising the impact of this. We need to keep our feet on level ground.”
Other councillors also urged restraint, fearing the report could whip up unnecessary alarm.
Cr Ralph Leutton said the report raised questions about future council planning.
“This will shape the answers,” he said.
The state government-funded report is the first of five to be made public.
Meanwhile, another smaller study has found the rock wall at East Beach’s most popular access point near the surf club is facing collapse unless it can be restored.
“The result of the work indicates that it’s the wall in front of the toilet block,” Cr Leutton said.
Tides have been undercutting much of the wall, which doesn’t go deep enough underground.
He said Moyne would again lobby the state government to hand over urgently-needed grant money for the work, but said $4.5 million would be needed if the wall was to be restored.
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