Ocean Beach area is dangerous, says Mehrtens
A Central Coast councillor has described the sandbagged area of Ocean Beach as being in a poor and dangerous state.
Council staff have confirmed that they believe people are systematically removing safety signs and fencing in the area.
The issue "must be a high priority" for Central Coast Council and any candidate considering standing in the NSW or Federal election in the next one to two years, according to Cr Richard Mehrtens.
"From my early days, even before I started campaigning for Council, the state of Umina and Ocean Beach has been a huge point of contention," Cr Mehrtens said.
"People are telling me all the time that they have fallen or a family member or they have witnessed someone fall down the eroded cliff face," he said.
Cr Mehrtens said he believed it was only a matter of time before someone was injured or the steep dune face collapsed causing injury.
"That would be a very poor reflection on Central Coast Council so if there is money there it should be spent."
Umina Community Group spokesperson Mr Tony Winch said that, since 2015, erosion has led to the formation of a steep and unstable cliff face in the location of the former walking paths that were maintained by Central Coast Council.
He said the former pathways had been fenced off with wire and plastic netting, and temporary signage.
However, that did not deter locals and visitors from climbing over the fencing and climbing down and up the cliff face during the Christmas-New Year break.
"We would like to discourage that from happening," he said.
Central Coast Council has confirmed that people are ignoring and removing signs and fencing to gain access to the beach.
"The fencing is supposed to restrict public access to the beach via what used to be maintained walking paths," said Council director Mr Mike Dowling.
"As fast as the fencing is fixed, it is cut away by people accessing the area.
"Council has repaired the fencing more than a dozen times and is now using stronger wire in an effort to reduce further vandalism.
"The fencing is lower due to the fact that people are climbing over trampling any safety measures that are in place.
"On-site signage is continually removed despite the obvious danger of accessing the beach in these locations.
"There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that a number people are involved in such activities each day.
"Access points and paths can't be restored until the beach profile returns.
"Council is currently reviewing additional emergency options to prevent further erosion of the escarpment.
"Council is also underway with designs for the installation of new staircases in the area, which will need to be able to withstand further tidal inundation and potential future erosion.
"Council has already expended funds on beach scraping to move sand further up the beach to assist in preventing further erosion.
"Council is currently working with State Government on funding associated with a long term solution.
"Budgets for the 2018/19 financial year are yet to be determined by Council," Mr Dowling said.
Interview, 11 Jan 2018
Richard Mehrtens, Central Coast Council
Media statement, 11 Jan 2018
Mike Dowling, Central Coast Council
Interview, 10 Jan 2018
Tony Winch, Umina Community Group
Reporter: Jackie Pearson