Interview: Wayne Dean and The Rebuilding of Kirra Groyne
Big Sky Wire
By Michele Lockwood
It’d be hard work to find a person more connected to the restoration of the groyne at Kirra Point than lifelong resident and chairman of “Kirra Point Incorporated”, Wayne Deane. I recently spoke to Wayne about the past, present and future of the groyne and what all that means for the rebirth of that infamous wave.
CW: I’m curious about the history of the groyne. When was it first put in place?
WD: They built it in ’72. No one knew it was going to happen, they just turned up and built it and we all went, “Whoa!”
Was it the council who built it?
Yeah. It took a couple of years to sort itself out, by the time it collected all the sand on the Coolangatta side of the groyne then it finally came around to the tip then it started to line the bank up at Kirra and actually made it longer. The engineer who put it there might’ve been a surfer because he put it at the right angle because all it did was lengthen the point. So it was a good result at the end of the day.
That wasn’t something you were expecting.
No, no one knew anything about it.
Why did they do it?
There was massive erosion on the beaches at Coolangatta and they needed to put something in to hold the sand there.
What was the wave like before the groyne?
It was similar but not as long. All the groyne did was lengthen from the natural point and put another 100 metres on the wave.
What has your involvement been with the whole project?
I’ve been in involved in the sand bypass project since it started in ’96 so I’ve had my finger on a lot of different things involving that – where the pipeline goes and where the outlets are and all that sort of stuff.
So when they pulled the groyne down, when they took the 30 metres off it in ’96 no one knew it was happening.
What do you mean?
It just happened. They just turned up with excavators and trucks and pulled all the rocks off it and went away. And everyone said, “What was that all about?”
So what was it all about?
Well, the story is a bit blurry really. We believe it was someone in council that had to get something done for his development. We tried to find out what it was but the information was either hidden or lost or unavailable so it’s a little bit tricky on what was actually going on there.
Some of the reasons that floated around were that it’s eroding in the corner at Greenmount, so we have to take a bit off the groyne because of the back eddy from the groyne to Greenmount. But anyone who knows that bit of beach knows there is no back eddy and it wasn’t really eroding Greenmount it was just a cover-up. We’re not really sure why they took it off.
There was a rumour of plans to put in a marina. Did that ever surface?
The marina first came to light in about the early ‘90s. I’ve the plan for it somewhere here, I was looking at it a few weeks ago. Brian Ray from that development family kind of pushed it. They were going to extend the groyne out to the north then out to the northwest and then put a 500 boat berth marina in there.
At Kirra! Totally take the wave out and totally take everything out. And we all just went, “You’re kidding!” There was a massive protest about that and it ended up getting squashed because the public just went nuts.
But then again about a year and a half ago they proposed this other thing, since Tom Tate became the mayor, he’s pushing for this cruise ship terminal to go somewhere on the coast. Bob Ell, that billionaire has been wanting to do something down here I guess since he’s got that development out at Cobaki and Piggabeen, so he obviously is looking at trying to connect them up with that. So it’s just people with too much money and too much time.
That’s right as always.
So have the 30 metres been replaced? And why have they decided to replace it now?
It’s a structure that the Gold Coast City Council needs to maintain because it’s a coastal protection amenity. So they haven’t done any works on it since 1996, since they pulled those 30 metres off it. So the last 40 metres of the groyne actually sank down about four metres, so they’ve actually got to build that up before they can start to put the 30 metres back on.
They’re putting it back on because of our lobbying and because they think it needs to be put back to keep us happy. We know if it’s back to how it was, the wave works and the sand works properly. There’s an issue with the foundation rocks still being in the water and the sand and that creates this massive rapid effect over those rocks which don’t let the sand settle on the bank.
So that first 50-70 metres that the groyne created just closed out. So that really good Big Groyne bank that we had off the groyne disappeared because the rapid effect unsettled the wave and the sand bank. So once we get it back we hope the rapid effect will be gone and the sand will flow around smoothly and hopefully put a little more angle on the first part of the bank which will in turn increase the angle on the rest of it because the problem is that there is too much sand to the west of Kirra and until it moves we won’t have the Kirra we know back.
It is a little hard dealing with the government because they want to see a lot of beach there because they are scared of erosion. But because of where we put the outlets, the sand can be put back quite quickly so with that bypass system in place its got things we made them do to put the sand back when it is available. The erosion shouldn’t be a problem.
Were you lobbying for the wave or was it an environmental concern or both?
My first action was when I approached Chris Robbins the local councillor here for Division 14 and asked if she’d seen the state of the groyne recently, this was about 3 years ago. She hadn’t, so I suggested she should because someone’s going to die or drown or something pretty bad is going to happen there if someone doesn’t do something about it. So I approached her from a litigation aspect not so much for about the concern of the wave. But there was no funding available and there was no interest in it. So it wasn’t until the council election last year that we staged a rally at Kirra Point and invited all the mayoral candidates to come and they all did and they all spoke about what they would do to put the groyne back. And Mr. Tate got in and we had a meeting in January and started the lobbying up till a few months ago.
It was all about funding, they did have some money and there was some left from the $1.5 million that the government allocated to try to help fix Kirra.
What was the majority of that money spent on?
Initially, we built sand dunes and took sand off the beach and build those dunes that go down from Miles Street down to Coolangatta Creek where that fencing is. And we got them to do more sand dune building west of Coolangatta Creek and took a million cubic metres of sand off the beach just to try to get the outer bank to move shoreward and to actually move.
There was like $400-$500,000 left in that kitty but when the LNP came in two months later they took that money and put it back in treasury so that was unavailable.
I’m not sure where Tom Tate got the money or why he actually did it; there are a couple of massive developments that are about to happen at Kirra very soon and I am thinking that yeah, we were lobbying and he said he’d do something about it but he was having trouble getting the money and I think that the massive development of Kirra Hotel and the pub will happen in the next year or two. That might’ve swayed him to think that if they get that wave back, this guy’s development will kill it and I’ll look really, really good. So probably a bit of both. We’re happy it’s going ahead, either way.
You’d think they’d have a keen interest in preserving that wave not only for the huge surf community in that area but also with all the tourism and contests that come through and generate income.
Well, you’d think that. They are developing a surf management plan and a few other things they are working on here on the coast. It’s one of the first places in the world developing this sort of thing. The problem is, is that they are getting the information from the wrong group of surf-related people, people who are in there for their own benefit.
They did a study about 4 years ago on the surf-related economy, the manufacturing, retail, tourism, travel….and they figured it generated about $3.5 billion dollars a year. It is the second biggest money-spinner on the coast here bar tourism. The council does realise there is a lot of money coming through because of it. And there are a hell of a lot of surfers who work within council these days as engineers and coastal management who are putting the good word in.
Do you think this will bring Kirra back to what it was, adding that extra 100 metres to the wave? Are they just putting the 30 metres back on the end of it? What exactly is in the plans?
They are putting back the 30 metres and restoring the groyne to the original specifications. I’ve always said that the groyne is only part of the puzzle, they are things that need to happen before the wave will actually come back; like the outer bank is still too far out and especially to the west of Kirra, just recently the sand finally came in behind the outer bank and in behind the bait reef at Kirra which is about level with Douglas Street and what that did was that the reef was acting like an underwater groyne because the sand actually built up against it, sand towards shore from that wasn’t moving. So once that came behind that reef there’s been a lot move movement from that outer bank towards the shore.
I think the groyne is part of that puzzle but basically the volume of sand there is part of the problem and till that erodes and till the government lets it erode, which they are a bit hesitant about, you won’t get the wave back.
We just need a few more decent swells to fill up all those beaches to south and then get to us. We’re in a shadow now where we’re not going to get a lot of sand over maybe the next four years. It’s a good thing for Kirra because they are not pumping huge volumes there. And that should improve it quicker than if they were pumping a lot of sand.
They haven’t finished the groyne yet. What’s slowed the process down?
Yeah, the problem is they haven’t been able to source big enough rocks. They had some rocks and so they started cleaning up that first 40 metres to get it right. They’ve got to find a quarry that can blast like 25-ton rocks cause the surf just throws them around otherwise.
What happened to the original rocks they removed?
Well, they took them to the refuge up near Tugun and they sat there for 6 or 7 years and they used them on the bypass road for retaining walls or something. Would be good if they were still there.
Post Script: Since this interview has taken place, it has been revealed that the work to restore the groyne has stopped due to the need for further approvals from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. The Gold Coast City Council hopes to have the project completed before the end of the year. Visit Bring Back Kirra Point’s Facebook page to stay informed on all things Big Groyne.
Big Sky is the property on which Andrew Kidman and Michele Lockwood live with their two children in Northern New South Wales. Once a week they speak to writers, photographers, surfers, artists and musicians for Coastalwatch's Big Sky Wire. To follow Andrew Kidman's film celebrating 40 years of Morning of The Earth, head to the Spirit of Akasha blog and to check out Michele Lockwood's blog click through here.
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