Port Macquarie is known as the “bodyboarding capital of Australia”, home to a unique surf break, but locals fear it is under threat from works to repair its neighbouring breakwall.
Three-time world bodyboard champion, Port Macquarie’s Damian King, grew up surfing the breakwall.
“It’s been promoted not only in Port Macquarie, but in NSW and Australia, and even around the world.
“It helped me do what I did and helped the generation before me and after me.”
The NSW government plans to upgrade the breakwall, which runs along the Hastings River, to repair and stabilise the structure, and meet current safety and accessibility guidelines.
There is concern among the surfing community that the work will result in a change to the shape at the end of the wall and impact the iconic surf break.
The government is seeking public feedback on the proposal, and a crowd from the surfing community turned out to a community session this week.
Scott Lawrence with Port Macquarie Boardriders said changes to breakwalls in other areas had impacted surf breaks.
“We have had some feedback from other spots like the Tuncurry breakwall and Ballina breakwall, where they have altered the front of the walls and [riders say] it has ruined the wave that had been there,” he said.
Is the breakwall wave under threat?
Professor Rob Brander, a beach safety researcher from the University of New South Wales, said he believed the surf break would not be overly affected.
“Anytime you build anything on the coast, and you modify the shape of something, it’s always going to have some feedback effect on the waves and the currents,” he said.
“But having said, that looking at the design it’s not too much different than what’s in place.
“I think by extending it and widening it, it will probably will just shift the break.
In a statement, a Transport for NSW spokesperson said “the proposed rock placement does not extend into the adjacent river or into the ocean bed” and the “footprint of the head of the breakwall will remain unchanged”.
The spokesperson said maintenance work at the breakwall had also been undertaken in 2015 and “surfers continued to enjoy the surfing breaks” after the work was complete.
Concern over loss of ‘iconic’ rocks
There is also concern over the proposed removal of the existing rocks along the breakwall which are covered in personal artworks.
Transport for NSW said repairs required the graffitied rocks to be replaced and some “repurposed ”.
Pam Green said she treasured a rock which was painted in memory of her late husband, Ian Green, who was an Ironman triathlon legend.
Mr Green died while competing in the swim leg of the Ironman in 2007.
The memorial rock was painted the following year.
“It would be disastrous to me really [to lose it].”
Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams said there would be an opportunity for new rock art.
The Transport for NSW spokesperson said it will aim to archive the history of the art wall.
“We will be capturing imagery and stories of the graffiti rocks before work on the breakwall begins,” the spokesperson said.