Stockton Coastal Management

Page hero image

Stockton Coastal Management Program 2021

The current situation

Stockton Beach is a dynamic and constantly changing environment which is precious to its community and to those who visit Stockton.

The Stockton Coastal Management Program (CMP) 2020 was developed in close consultation with the Stockton Community Liaison Group, government agencies, coastal experts and members of our community. It includes actions to ensure we can help manage, maintain and preserve the coast between the northern breakwater of the Hunter River and Meredith Street, Stockton.

The Stockton CMP 2020 has mass sand nourishment as its primary coastal management action to improve beach amenity and protect coastal lands. This involves placing a large amount of suitable sand, off Stockton from the breakwall to just past Meredith Street. The Stockton Beach Taskforce, chaired by the NSW Deputy Premier, is currently investigating suitable offshore sand sources for this mass nourishment.

We estimate that about 112,000m3 of sand naturally moves north from Stockton Beach along the Stockton Bight each year with wave movement – that’s equivalent to about 45 Olympic swimming pools full of sand. The Newcastle Harbour break waters and navigational channel effectively blocks new sand moving from Nobbys Beach to Stockton. With no sand coming in and the waves moving sand north, it means that Stockton Beach suffers erosion. It’s like constantly spending from your bank account without any new cash deposits coming in.

Mass sand nourishment will be like a large deposit made to the bank account. However, expenditure continues and the continued expenditure means that at some point money (sand) will run out, returning to our current situation of paying the expenditure via erosion.

Mass sand nourishment needs to be complemented by other coastal management actions to prolong the benefits of the sand buffer and ensure the entire Stockton Bight can be enjoyed by locals and visitors for years to come.

Developing the Stockton Coastal Management Program 2021

Work is underway on the Stockton CMP 2021, with an aim of identifying additional coastal management options to extend the life of mass sand nourishment.

graphic showing stages of coastal management programThe Stockton CMP 2021 will update the Stockton CMP 2020 to include the northern end of Stockton Beach from Meredith Street to the Port Stephens Local Government Area boundary. The land to the north of Meredith Street is owned and managed by Defence Housing Australia, Hunter Water, Crown Land and the Department of Communities and Justice, and we’re working closely with these stakeholders during development of the 2021 CMP. These stakeholders must agree to the coastal management actions in the Stockton CMP 2021 to allow it to be sent for certification from the State Government. Without agreement, the CMP cannot progress.

Developing the Stockton CMP 2021 is a five-stage process directed under the Coastal Management Act 2016. We’ve already completed stages 1 and 2 with scoping, sand movement and hazard studies carried out since 2019. We’re now in the early phases of stage 3, which involves identifying and evaluating options to preserve the Stockton coastline for future generations. During this early phase we are gathering feedback from the community on the concept coastal management options that have been developed to help prolong the mass sand nourishment.

Coastal management options being considered

We assessed a long list of coastal management options for the Stockton CMP 2021, complementing the mass sand nourishment agreed on in the Stockton CMP 2020.

We narrowed down to the best schemes for Stockton, with the considerations including providing a buffer from erosion, social amenity and recreation, and the environment. These considerations were developed in line with the Coastal Management Act 2016.
Four schemes have progressed for further investigation. These include maintenance nourishment, an artificial reef, artificial headland and sand back passing. We’re investigating the feasibility of these schemes to ensure each is possible and would provide consideration to the entire Stockton Bight, as well as complement mass sand nourishment.

Maintenance Nourishment

This involves replacing the sand that currently moves north from Stockton Beach along the Stockton Bight each year – about 112,000m3 or 45 Olympic swimming pools. The aim of this scheme is to actively ‘keep the sand moving’ by mimicking/reinstating the natural sand flow, something that has been limited at Stockton.

The benefit of this approach is that the northward movement of sand would provide a buffer for the Stockton Bight coastline. For this to go ahead, we still need to identify a source for the sand and identify the long-term environmental impacts of retrieving and depositing this additional sand on a regular basis. Work on this has started.

Artificial Headland

This involves building an artificial headland that would extend into the ocean by around 150 to 200 metres. The aim of this scheme is to 'keep sand in the system' as the headland will slow the northern movement of sand along Stockton Bight. There will also be recreational benefits.

As part of this scheme, sand will build up on the southern side of the headland. Once it has built up, sand will bypass the headland and then feed the beach to the north. Once construction is complete the shoreline to the north of the structure will realign landward.

For this to go ahead, we still need to confirm exactly how the headland will work. Specific scientific modelling will determine sand volumes held by the structure and sand volumes by passing the structure. Work on this has started.

Artificial Reef

This involves building a submerged artificial reef. The artificial reef would slow the northward movement of sand along Stockton Bight by reducing wave energy reaching the beach, providing a surfing benefit. With the aim to ‘keep sand in the system’ the sand will build up on the southern side of the reef. The reef would not stop sand movement to the north as the artificial headland option initially does. Once construction is complete, the shoreline to the north of the structure will realign.

For this to go ahead, we need to find out if we have the ability/need to build more than one reef and learn exactly how it would work. Specific modelling will determine sand volumes held by the structure and sand volumes by passing the structure. Work on this has started.

Sand Back Passing System

This involves re-circulating sand using machinery that will collect sand, feeding it via a pipe network to the south, to outlets placed along Stockton Beach. This scheme aims to ‘keep sand in the system’ by re-circulating sand, following mass nourishment.

It would be powered by a pump station, allowing wet sand to flow from the outlets onto Stockton Beach. The pumping rate will allow for the water to run into the ocean leaving the sand to fall out, building the beach up during a campaign. During operation, small sections of the beach would be closed to the public, however most of the beach would remain open.

For this to go ahead, we still need to determine the exact location for the infrastructure and run scientific modelling around the volumes of sand that will be used. We are also yet to determine how frequently the system would need to operate. Work on this has started.

Have your say

During this early phase we are gathering feedback from the community on the schemes that have been developed to help prolong mass sand nourishment. The Stockton Community Liaison Group has provided feedback on the positives and drawbacks of each scheme allowing the designs to progress to this point.Share your views

We’d now like to hear from you about what you like or don’t like about the schemes we’re considering, and why.

Please get involved by taking the short survey today. There will be further opportunities for the community to have their say on the Stockton CMP 2021 later in the year. Your feedback will help us develop a program of management actions to help buffer the Stockton coast for future generations. This could mean a single scheme or a combination of schemes, to best manage Stockton Beach. You can also drop into Stockton Library any time between 1.30pm to 5.00pm on Thursday 15 April or between 9.30am and 12.30pm on Thursday 22 April to speak with a member of the project team. The feedback period closes Friday 7 May 2021.

Next steps

We’re currently assessing the feasibility of four coastal management schemes for the Stockton CMP 2021. For schemes that are considered feasible, we will then carry out a viability assessment, which will take the cost of each scheme into account and allow us to carry out a cost-benefit analysis.

There will be further opportunities for the community to have their say on the schemes being considered for Stockton CMP 2021 later in the year.

Download our printable Fact Sheet (PDF).

Stockton Bight Sand Movement Study

The Stockton Bight Sand Movement Study 2020 (PDF) has been prepared to provide an understanding of the rates and directions of sand movement.

This information is being used in the development of the Stockton CMP 2021 to inform the assessment of each coastal management option in terms of its impact on the behaviour of the coastline. It will allow us and affected landholders to make evidenced based decisions on the best option for the area to the north of Meredith Street.

The Study confirmed that while there is a pattern of erosion moving marine sand north from Stockton Beach into the Stockton dunes, the erosion rate is increased by the reduction in sand passing the Hunter River. This decrease in sand supply is demonstrated by the deepening of the area offshore of Stockton beach and the continued erosion of the southern end of the beach. This results in the net northerly loss of sand that is a key management consideration of the Stockton CMP.

Frequently asked questions

The Stockton CMP 2021 will update the Stockton CMP 2020 to include the coastline north of Meredith Street to the Port Stephens Local Government Area (LGA) boundary. This section of the beach was not included in the 2020 document because, following a number of extreme weather events, City of Newcastle was directed by the Hon. Shelley Hancock, Minister of Local Government to fast track the delivery of a CMP for Stockton that targeted the beach south of Meredith Street to the Stockton Breakwall.

Proposed management options for the Stockton CMP 2021 will complement the current goal of mass sand nourishment. These will be assessed in terms of their economic and technical feasibility to obtain agreement on a suitable strategy from all affected northern landholders. Landholders include Hunter Water Corporation, Defence Housing Australia, Family and Community Services and Department of Industry (Crown Lands).

The actions in the Stockton CMP 2020 will not change and will be incorporated into the Stockton CMP 2021.

City of Newcastle, along with all coastal councils in New South Wales, are required to prepare a CMP under the Coastal Management Act 2016 (Division 2 Section 14). The Coastal Management Act provides for the integrated management of the coast, consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development, for the social, cultural, and economic wellbeing of New South Wales.

Stockton Beach is managed by multiple agencies and organisations.

City of Newcastle manages the beach south of Meredith Street to the Stockton Breakwall, while the Department of Industry (Crown Lands), Hunter Water Corporation, Defence Housing Australia and Family and Community Housing have responsibility for the coastline north of Meredith Street to the Port Stephens LGA. See Appendix A for a map that outlines land responsibility.

As part of the development of the Stockton CMP 2021, we are collaborating with all identified stakeholders to achieve an integrated solution/s that provides benefit for the entire Stockton Bight against predicted coastal hazards, plus complements mass sand nourishment identified for South Stockton (Stockton CMP 2020).

There are 5 Stages involved in the development of a CMP. City of Newcastle has commenced Stage 3 for the development of the Stockton CMP 2021 which will run from February to October 2021.

Stage 3 looks to comprise and assess potential management options. To adequately assess the potential management options, City of Newcastle must identify them and then evaluate them considering feasibility, viability, and acceptability to stakeholders. Potential management options that are deemed feasible will have a business plan identifying how they will be funded and implemented. The business plan will also identify which organisation/stakeholder is responsible for implementation.

Stage 4 of the process is the preparation of the Coastal Management Program. This stage combines all the information generated through Stages 1 – 3 to create a document ready for certification. City of Newcastle is working towards the development of a Draft Stockton CMP 2021 by December 2021.

Agreement on a suitable strategy is required from all affected northern landholders prior to submitting the CMP for Certification. Following agreement from the northern landholders, the CMP is submitted for certification. The Department of Planning, Industry & Environment (DPIE) review and assess the CMP before it is submitted to the responsible Minister for certification.
Stage 5 of a CMP is the implementation of the actions identified

Stage 3 of a CMP looks to comprise and assess all potential management options. Management options include varied ways to manage the changing coastline against coastal hazards such as erosion, wave inundation and sea level rise.
As the certified Stockton CMP 2020 identified the investigation into Mass Sand Nourishment as the preferred management solution, all potential management options for Stockton CMP 2021 will look to compliment mass sand nourishment.
Stockton CMP 2021 has identified 16 potential management options. These include ways to keep mass sand nourishment in the Stockton beach system.

Each of the 16 potential management options are assessed via a filter which rules out options that are deemed not feasible.

The filter assesses each potential management option for its ability to assist in providing an adequate buffer against coastal hazards, assist in providing for social values including beach amenity, work in with the coastal environment and be accepted by stakeholders.

Following the filter assessment, the Stockton CMP 2021 will review four potential management schemes via a Feasibility Assessment which forms part of Stage 3 in the development of a CMP.

City of Newcastle has worked with the Deputy Premier’s Taskforce to move forward with various management actions outlined in the Stockton CMP 2020.

In December 2020, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro chaired a meeting of the Taskforce and announced his government had applied for an offshore exploration licence. This means geologists are now able to examine potential sand sources which could be used to remediate Stockton Beach in a safe and effective manner.

City of Newcastle has begun works at Barrie Crescent section of Stockton Beach on a temporary protection structure. The structure, compiled of Kyowa Rock Bags, will offer protection until such time as mass sand nourishment is achieved. These works will be completed in May 2021.

Other maintenance and protection works are also ongoing to help maintain access to the beach and manage severe weather events.

  • March 2018: The Stockton Community Liaison Group meets for the first time to seek a long-term solution to erosion at Stockton Beach.
  • February 2020: Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock directs City of Newcastle to prepare a CMP for Stockton as a matter of priority given significant community concern about ongoing coastal erosion. 
  • May 2020: The draft CMP is put on public exhibition for four weeks and the community has their say.
  • June 2020: City of Newcastle delivers the draft Stockton Coastal Management Program 2020 for review and certification under the Coastal Management Act 2016.
  • August 2020: The Stockton CMP 2020 is certified by the State Government and Newcastle becomes the first in NSW to have a coastal management program confirmed under the new coastal management framework.
  • December 2020: Works begin on the Stockton CMP 2021, which will include the coastline north of Meredith Street to the Port Stephens Local Government Area boundary.
  • December 2021: City of Newcastle plans to finalise the draft Stockton CMP 2021 and submit it to the NSW Government.