Farther away, crumbling cliffs forced the closure of a beach near Anglesea, and a man died near Bells Beach on New Year’s Day when part of the cliff collapsed. The problem is global; the New York Times reported similar challenges in Massachusetts and beyond.
Simon Woodland, Bass Coast Shire’s Sustainable Environment Manager, said the modeling had shown where erosion would reach without intervention.
But he said the problem would likely be worse than expected if climate change continued unabated.
“These parts of the coast will be dramatically altered by these types of impacts if we don’t take action,” Woodland said.
“It’s a salt water flood. It’s not like three weeks later your lawn is green.”
Woodland said hard defenses, including rock walls, risked washing away stretches of beach when water ricocheted off the solid surface.
Inverloch resident Ed Thexton lives 400 meters from the beach and said his property was flooded by the creek that runs alongside it in the early 1990s.
Thexton, who is president of the South Gippsland Conservation Society, said Inverloch’s ‘shifting sands’ are nothing new, but waterfront properties are attractive to people who want to live and holiday along the coast, lakes and streams.
“Everyone wants to be close to the water,” he says.
LJ Hooker Inverloch branch manager Euan Wightman said demand for Surf Parade properties remains high, with prices typically ranging from $1.35 million to $2.2 million.
He said potential buyers trust authorities to protect their properties from erosion, citing work being done to protect Bunurong Road.
“From a buyer’s perspective, they don’t seem to be worried at all,” he said.
Deakin University honorary research fellow Geoff Westcott said governments should consider a public insurance scheme that would allow homeowners to be paid out when coastal flooding renders their homes uninhabitable.
But they would have to give up their property after the payout.
Westcott said some homes shouldn’t have been built so close to shore, but a public insurance scheme meant taxpayers’ money didn’t have to be spent protecting them.
“It’s a way of moving,” he said. “There is no financial damage for the landowner. But we don’t repeat our mistakes.”
Bass Coast Mayor Michael Whelan said a planned withdrawal from protecting public assets and possibly even homes must be considered as one of the options.
“It’s one of those things that people don’t want to talk about because it’s not popular,” he said.
Many of the homes on Surf Parade are vacation rentals. Age contacted two permanent residents, but they declined to comment.
Darrin McKenzie, regional director for Gippsland’s Department for the Environment, Land Water and Planning, said the Bass Coast faces significant climate challenges.
“Community feedback from the recent Inverloch Coastal Hazards and Adaptation Models Consultation will be used to inform adaptation options to ensure our changing coast is managed well into the future,” he said.
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