Coastal Hazards

Main Beach tidal inundation

Our coastline and beaches are important from an environmental and economic point of view, and as a place for Byron Shire’s 35,000 residents and 2.1 million annual visitors to enjoy.

Our coast includes coastal waters, rocky and sandy shorelines, dunes, and coastal lakes. It is shaped by wind, waves, tides, and currents, which can result in erosion, deposition, and inundation of coastal land. These hazards can create risks to the coastal environment and coastal communities. Climate change is another factor in modifying coastal processes, hazards, and risks.

Coastal hazards, such as the following, are natural processes which can expose coastal areas to risks such as potential property damage and environmental degradation.

  • Beach erosion
  • Shoreline recession
  • Cyclic variability
  • Coastal late or water course entrance stability
  • Coastal inundation
  • Tidal Inundation
  • Coastal cliff or slop instability
  • Erosion and inundation of estuary foreshore caused by tidal waters and wave action

To learn more about the above Coastal Hazards, download to review our The Basics of Coastal Hazards Factsheet(PDF, 1MB).

Frequently asked questions

What coastal hazards affect the Byron Shire coastline?

All of the coastal hazards listed above can pose risks to our coast. Beach erosion, cyclic variability and shoreline recession are key hazards that affect the open coast of the Byron Shire coastline.

The actual amount of beach erosion and/or inundation that occurs during a storm is difficult to predict due to the complex interaction of many factors, including the following.

  • Beach state controls the natural rate that a beach tends to respond to storms.
  • Dune height and beach width determines the amount of sand available to initially buffer the erosion impact on the dunes and the amount of freeboard that might exist as the storm water level rises and reaches its peak.
  • Storm wave height, period, and duration determines the rate at which erosion occurs and how long the erosion proceeds, and therefore the total volume of sand removed from the beach.
  • Water level determines the height that waves can reach to overtop natural and built structures, and the depth of inundation behind the shoreline.
  • Time since the previous storm determines whether the current storm will be compounding the sand losses of a previous storm or sequence of storms;
  • Localised processes include processes like rip currents that can locally enhance the beach erosion.

During 2020/21, the embayment’s coastline between Clarkes and Main Beach experienced persistent erosion due to a natural cycle of reduced sand supply around Cape Byron and storm waves coinciding with higher-than-normal tides. This resulted in loss of significant volumes of sand and dune vegetation. To learn more, see our project page: Main and Clarkes Beach Dune Recovery Project.

What is Council doing to manage the risks from coastal hazards?

Council has commenced preparation of Coastal Management Programs (CMPs) for its coastline. As part of Stage 2 of CMP preparation, Council is preparing a detailed and technical assessment of coastal hazards for the entire Byron Shire coastline.

The Byron Shire Coastal Hazard Assessment Study 2022 is near complete. It is expected in November 2022 and will then reported to Council early 2023 after technical review process and stakeholder consultation. Once endorsed by Council it will be put on Council’s website.

The study aims to quantify the nature and extent of exposure to coastal hazards and threats to public and private assets (both natural and built). This information will support decision making about coastal management actions in later stages of the Coastal Management Program.

See our project pages for more information on our Coastal Management Programs (CMPs):

What emergency management is in place?

Council has prepared a draft emergency management plan which outlines the emergency actions it intends to undertake in the event of a beach erosion emergency.

Under the plan, Council may work with emergency service providers such as the State Emergency Service (SES) in the event of a declared beach erosion emergency or an emergency caused by severe weather.

This emergency plan will be updated and finalised as part of the preparation of CMPs, as referred in ‘What is Council doing to manage risks from coastal hazards?’.

For information about emergencies, warnings and preparedness please visit our Emergency Dashboard.