Call to review Clovelly Beach plan

Wind nets on Clovelly Beach were damaged during a spring tide and some residents claim to have seen nets swept out to sea. Picture: Brenton Geach

Clovelly residents are calling for the City to review Clovelly Beach’s coastal management plan, after a spring tide and stormy weather damaged netting and piping that had been laid there to reshape the dunes and control windblown sand.

Resident Robyn Swart drafted a letter to ward councillor Aimee Kuhl on behalf of residents.

The letter was relayed to Gregg Oelofse, the City’s coastal management manager, who responded to their concerns.

In the letter, residents argue that Clovelly Beach needs a more strategic and environmentally conscious management plan to protect its unique natural features, including dune systems and underground waterways.

But Mr Oelofse argued that the dune system along Fish Hoek Beach, including Clovelly, had been compromised during the 1800s due to development, making it difficult to return to a natural state.

He emphasised the need for ongoing management to balance complex coastal processes.

“This system has lost all potential to be returned to a natural state due to extensive urban development. The system will require pragmatic, cost-effective, and ongoing management of the complex coastal processes to find the best possible balance.

“Regardless of opinion, sand is deposited in winter and moved with the south-east wind in summer. We now have to manage that complex process in a very narrow band of what is left of the sand transport system (between the high water mark and the railway line). This will require ongoing management in perpetuity,” Mr Oelofse said.

After the recent spring tide, Peter Swart, a Clovelly resident and fisherman, said he and his family had seen the netting and irrigation pipes being washed into the sea.

“All of the damaged nets and irrigation equipment ended up in the sea, and my family and I witnessed it. It happened on Saturday September 16. On the Monday morning, a crew arrived to remove the remaining netting that had washed up near the railway line. The damage had already been done,” he told the Echo.

In his response, Mr Oelofse assured the residents that all damaged materials, including nets in the water, were recovered.

He said that only the front row of nets had been impacted and had not needed to be replaced.

“The costs were minimal and required one morning’s work to recover the nets and exposed irrigation pipes,” he said.

The damage to the frontal nets was expected and formed part of an adaptive management approach, he said.

“So far, no netting has been permanently lost to False Bay,” he told the Echo.

In the letter, residents said it would be wise to review the coastal management plan for this stretch of the beach, as they feel the re-fencing of this section of beach, below the high water mark, will see hundreds of metres of netting and plastic irrigation pipes being swallowed by the sea.

However, Mr Oelofse said that since 1985, the worst years for beach erosion had been 2009 and 2020.

He said that the long-term footprint of the dune management interventions, when overlaid on historical Google Earth imagery, was well outside of the worst recently recorded impact zone.

Furthermore, the position of the frontal nets would be re-evaluated on an ongoing basis, he said.

Residents said they were worried about the absence of indigenous oystercatchers since start of the project, but Mr Oelofse said the birds would return.

“They were not nesting at the time of re-profiling. We have demonstrable data from Hout Bay on the extensive biodiversity return once the vegetation takes hold. This is across multiple coastal species and it results in a far healthier and diverse coastal environment than what preceded it,” he said.

Clovelly residents want the Clovelly Beach management plan reviewed. Picture: Brenton Geach