Stockton Beach is an extensive sandy beach which extends from the northern side of the mouth of the Hunter River northwards to the boundary of the Newcastle Local Government Area.
Sand erosion is the offshore movement of sand from the beach, caused by wind, waves and currents. Sand erosion often occurs during storms, where sand is pushed offshore and forms sand bars. During calmer conditions, sand from the offshore sand bars is gradually moved back up onto the beach by the waves and currents (this process is called ‘accretion’). Beaches naturally undergo these cycles of erosion and accretion.
From the mid 1800s up to the present day there has been ongoing erosion of sand at Stockton Beach. A number of studies have been carried out to assess the erosion problem at Stockton Beach. Older studies analysed the coastal processes (effects of natural forces (eg waves, wind) on the beach) based on historical data. These studies indicated that erosion at Stockton Beach was short term (cyclic) and the beach would therefore eventually recover. As a result of these investigations, the rock seawall at Mitchell Street and sand bag wall in front of the surf club were constructed to protect the beach from short term erosion events. These structures have limited the extent of erosion from recent storms at these locations. However, the construction of these structures has significantly impacted on beach amenity and does not provide a long term solution to beach erosion.
Studies undertaken during the preparation of the Newcastle Coastline Management Plan (2003) (3 mb) suggested that erosion at Stockton Beach was progressively worsening, meaning that the erosion was not cyclical, and sand was being permanently lost from the beach. There was, however, no clear understanding of the coastal processes at Stockton Beach. Consequently, no clear recommendations for the long term management of Stockton Beach could be made in the Newcastle Coastline Management Plan and it was stated that there should be “further detailed analysis of coastal processes off Stockton Beach and consideration of long term management options”.
Council in partnership with the NSW Government and Newcastle Port Corporation engaged DHI Water and Environment to complete the Stockton Beach Coastal Processes Study (2006) and the draft Stockton Beach Coastal Zone Management Study (2009). The studies were undertaken to further investigate the coastal processes at Stockton Beach and identify appropriate management options for addressing the long term erosion.
Stockton Beach Coastal Processes Study (2006)
The Processes Study looked at the coastal processes affecting Stockton Beach. It included a computer based model which replicated currents and wave patterns to provide a better understanding of the potential for further sand erosion at Stockton Beach.
Key findings of the Processes Study
The Study investigated and mapped three scenarios:
- the effect of an immediate storm threat
- the erosion potential in 20 years (medium term)
- the erosion potential in 50 years (long term).
The Study found that Stockton Beach will be subject to ongoing erosion, which worsens to the north of the seawall. The erosion potential in 50 years is described as severe.
The Erosion Hazard Line map shows the maximum erosion potential (maximum change in the shoreline) for Stockton in 50 years.
Copies of the Stage 1 report are available from the Newcastle Region Library, Laman Street, Newcastle and the Stockton Library, King Street, Stockton.
Download the Stockton Coastal Processes Study (14.3 mb) - please note this is a large document and may take some time to download.
Draft Stockton Beach Coastal Zone Management Study
The draft Management Study was recently completed and involved the identification of potential management options for addressing long term erosion at Stockton Beach. Five potential management options were shortlisted:
- Option 1: Beach nourishment
- Option 2: Seawall with beach nourishment
- Option 3: Offshore breakwaters and beach nourishment
- Option 4: Artificial headland and beach nourishment
- Option 5: Multi-Function Artificial Reef and beach nourishment
Management options were modelled and evaluated based on the following:
- performance as a coastal protection structure
- environmental impacts
- social impacts, and
- economic impacts.
The draft Management Study identified Option 4 – artificial headland and beach nourishment as the preferred management option as it minimises the long term erosion, was broadly supported by the community (community workshop May 2008) and provides the potential for recreational usage (eg fishing, walking).
Council, at its meeting on 5 May 2009, adopted the artificial headland and beach nourishment as the preferred management option for detailed design, scoping, and costing.
However the estimated capital cost of the artificial headland with beach nourishment is beyond Council’s financial capacity. The Office of Environment and Heritage have indicated that the funding required for the artificial headland would be far in excess of the Government’s capacity to contribute matching funds, and that it may be appropriate for Council to reconsider the scale and type of works proposed. Council will therefore consider other coastal hazard management options during the preparation of the Newcastle Coastal Zone Management Plan.
Stockton Beach Sand Scoping and Funding Feasibility Study
The five short-listed protective options assessed in the draft Stockton Beach Coastal Zone Management Study all require a suitable source of sand for beach nourishment. In March 2011, Council engaged Worley Parsons to prepare the Stockton Beach Sand Scoping and Funding Feasibility Study (18.41 mb). The objectives of the study were to:
- identify potential terrestrial and offshore sources of sand for beach nourishment at Stockton beach
- identify potential methods of sand extraction, transport and placement for beach nourishment
- provide a cost estimate for each beach nourishment option
- recommend the preferred option for beach nourishment
- identify potential funding opportunities for beach nourishment activities.
The purpose of the study was to determine if beach nourishment is a feasible option for Council to pursue in managing the erosion issues at Stockton beach. The final study was endorsed by the Newcastle Coastal Technical Working Party in August 2012.
The study indicates that the acquisition of clean dreding spoils from the development of the Newcastle Port would be the most favourable option for the nourishment of Stockton Beach. The findings from the study will be incorporated into the Newcastle Coastal Zone Management Study and Plan.
Revision of the Newcastle Coastline Management Plan
As a result of the recent coastal erosion reforms, Council is revising the Newcastle Coastline Management Plan (and supporting studies) to ensure the new requirements of the Guidelines for Preparing Coastal Zone Management Plans are met.
The first step in revising the Newcastle Coastline Management Plan includes the revision of the Stockton Beach Coastal Processes Study and draft Stockton Beach Coastal Zone Management Study. The erosion hazard lines produced in the Stockton Beach Coastal Processes Study will be revised during the preparation of the Newcastle Coastal Zone Hazard Study to meet the requirements of the Guidelines for Preparing Coastal Zone Management Plans.
See the Coastal Management page for further information about the revision of the Newcastle Coastline Management Plan.
For further information on Stockton beach, please contact Council’s Senior Strategist – Environment on 02 4974 2852.