DRONE VIDEO: Fears Bribie Island may split in two
RESIDENTS fear the ocean will soon break through the fragile northern tip of Bribie Island and threaten homes and infrastructure at Golden Beach and Pelican Waters.
A University of Queensland research team is conducting a before-and-after environmental audit following the area's pounding from Cyclone Oma.
Drone footage taken in recent days shows just how vulnerable the island's dunes have become, with waves crashing precariously close to the tranquil Pumicestone Passage at Caloundra.
Night Eyes Water and Landcare president George Vella said the width of the island was now less than 30m in some parts, with sand dunes only a few metres high.
Mr Vella said locals were seeing the island wither away, and the impact from Oma could be a game-changer.
President of community lobby group Take Action For Pumicestone Ken Mewburn said residents were becoming increasingly concerned about what would happen if the surf carved through the island.
"If the frontal dune is breached, we would see an increase in the volume and velocity of water in the passage and there potentially would be properties inundated," he said.
"The reality, of course, is that erosion is a natural and inevitable process.
"However because we have built too close to the coast, there will be an impact on us unless we take action."
Both groups are most concerned about the thinning in a low-lying part of Bribie, about 2km from the island's northern tip, which has already experienced a "wash over".
If the ocean breaches at this point - opposite Diamond Head - they say homes could be impacted, along with roads.
Sunshine Coast Regional Council said the full impact of sand loss on Bribie would be confirmed once crews completed an onsite inspection later this week.
"This monitoring is a key part of the Bribie Island Breakthrough Action Plan," a council spokeswoman said.
"Following TC Oma late last week and at the weekend, between one and three metres of scarping was experienced across all Sunshine Coast beaches, including Bribie Island."
University of Queensland's School of Civil Engineering professor Tom Baldock said the university was working with council to assess the situation on the island, and had conducted a field trip in December with council and State Government representatives.
Prof Baldock said data from drone footage taken on Wednesday was still being finalised and would not be available until next week.
This video would be analysed, along with images from time lapse cameras on the island.
He said a federal funding grant application was being prepared for a three-year study examining beach erosion processes on all Sunshine Coast beaches.
"This would give council tools to assist with beach management and help prepare for the future," Prof Baldock said.
On the Gold Coast, where huge swells have carved giant sand cliffs in to the dunes, restoration works could start as soon as Tuesday.
Mayor Tom Tate said the golden beaches should soon be returned to their former glory.
He also announced a new artificial reef for Palm Beach, which would not only have the potential to create a new surfing break, but should also serve as an extra layer of defence for the fragile coastline against cyclonic swells.
Work on the project will start in April.