Calls for new approach on Cudgen Creek dredging


SEVERAL RESIDENTS have raised concerns with the announced dredging works at Cudgen Creek estuary this week with one local fearing the cost could “blow out” despite a fixed rate contract.

Max Willoughby of Nunderi wrote to The Weekly this week to call on the NSW State Government to reconsider their approach.

“Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result,” Mr Willoughby wrote to The Weekly.

“Of some pertinence to Einstein’s aphorism is the news that Tweed Shire Council, with the support of local MP Geoff Provest, intends to dredge the Cudgen Creek estuary again.

“The report states taxpayer’s funds of $345,000 will be expended to remove 25,000m3 of sand from the lower estuary of the creek and place most of it as renourishment sand on the eroded section of Kingscliff Beach immediately north of the northern training wall.

“That’s a unit rate of $13.80 per m3 which will hardly cover the cost of mobilising the dredge to the area, let alone actually dredging the sand. Not to put too fine a point on it, that cost estimate will escalate significantly.”

Mr Willoughby said State Member for Tweed Geoff Provest MP was quoting “navigation safety and access for recreational vessels at low tide” as justification for the expenditure on the project.

“I note that Mr Provest didn’t seem to care too much about navigation safety and access for recreational vessels at low tide when he acquiesced in the NSW Government’s successful efforts to close down the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard station at the entrance to the creek, which actually did do a lot to promote navigation safety for recreational vessels transiting the creek entrance, at all stages of the tide,” he said.

“Since the closure of the AVCG station a few years ago, I suspect that that there are now significantly fewer recreational vessels transiting the entrance and it would be interesting to know just how much is being spent per vessel to improve ‘access at low tide’, which is, after all, for only a few hours per day. However, referring back to my opening remark attributed to the great physicist, my main concern is that the estuary has been dredged many times before, the last about three years ago, with the sand placed as nourishment on the southern end of Kingscliff Beach.”

Mr Willoughby said the improvement in access at low tide lasted for all of twelve months and notwithstanding the local beach nourishment, the result of the dredging was a “serious erosion pulse moving north along Kingscliff beach from the entrance, a pulse which is still evident in the centre of the embayment at Dreamtime Beach”.

“This, as any competent coastal zone manager, coastal engineer or student of coastal zone dynamics knows, is because estuaries such as Cudgen Creek are not net exporters of sediment to the coastal system, but net importers.

“Presently, sand moving north along the coast as a result of longshore drift bypasses Cudgen Creek over the shallow arcuate sand bar offshore from the entrance. As before, dredging the lower estuary will result in this longshore sand transport being intercepted and transported into the estuary by the flood tide to fill the dredge holes, a process which will continue until the estuary mouth is again shoaled and in dynamic equilibrium with tide and longshore transport rates.

“The interruption to the longshore sand transport as sand moves back into the estuary will again also result in an erosion pulse moving north along the beach from the estuary mouth.

“I suspect that this proposed project comes under the heading of ‘something must be done, here’s something, so let’s do it’, since politicians like to point to their expenditure of public money as sole evidence of their value to society, rather than a more reasonable metric of value measurement, such as successful and useful outcomes based on value for money. But, whatever the motivations, this project is, without doubt, pandering to a few noisy souls, and a waste of my and your money.”

YOUR THOUGHTS: Do you think the NSW State Government should continue to undertake dredging at Cudgen Creek to improve accessibility? Send your thoughts and letters to



“Dear Mr Willoughby, after reviewing your original email, I would make the following additional comments:

1: Cost – the funds allocated reflect a fixed price contract negotiated between the Department and the operators.

2: The Volunteer Coastguard is no longer in existence in NSW. All marine safety comes under the jurisdiction of Marine Rescue NSW. We are very fortunate to have a large, proactive group of volunteers providing extensive coverage for boaties, based at Point Danger. Plans are being developed for a refurb of the tower at Cudgen Creek, including the installation of CCTV to provide 24/7 monitored coverage and enhance the service provided to the boating community at that site.

3: The NSW Government did not, in the first instance, seek to close down the Australian Volunteer Coastguard, rather the Coastguard (as an organisation, not an individual unit) failed to conform with current, modern, search and rescue operations. This was not a reflection on our active local members, many of whom have since joined Marine Rescue Point Danger.

  1. Regarding sand movement and future erosion, I am advised this has been considered and dealt with by a number of government bodies with suitably qualified experts in that field.

However, your concerns are noted and have been forwarded to the minister for his consideration.”