Workers in Hazmat suits, asbestos washing ashore and a new tip uncovered by Stockton erosion BLEAK: Council workers wearing Hazmat suits walk Stockton beach looking for asbestos on Thursday morning. Picture: Shannon Hancock


Asbestos collected by residents from Stockton beach.

Stockton resident Shane Hancock at the site of another tip site uncovered by erosion. This smaller, illegal dump site is just north of the Stockton day-care centre, off Griffith Ave. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Stockton resident Shane Hancock at the site of another tip site uncovered by erosion. This smaller, illegal dump site is just north of the Stockton day-care centre, off Griffith Ave. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Old household rubbish uncovered by erosion on Stockton beach.

Pieces of asbestos collected from Stockton beach by resident Shannon Hancock over five days.

Erosion on Stockton beach near the child-care centre.

TweetFacebookNewcastle Herald revealed a large landfill had been uncovered bythe suburb’s worseningerosion problem, another smaller, unrelated tip – about 500 metres away – has been exposednear Mission Australia Early Learning Centre.

Old glass bottles, rusted metaland crockery are among the items discovered being washed into the sea.

Most of the rubbish iscompressed within theembankment – several metres deep –with what appearsto be asbestos jutting out.

The rubbishislittered along a few metres of the shoreline off Griffith Ave, with items scattered and half-buried in the sand. One ofthe bottles recovered was an old Peck’s Paste bottle believed to be dated between 1930 and 1950.

Mr Hancock said ifthe beach erosion had been addressed, the tip would never have been uncovered.

He is among a group of residents who walk the beach daily collecting historicrubbish and asbestos pieces that range from 40 centimetresin length to the size of a 50 cent coin.

Related reading: The garbage tip washing into the sea(January 20, 2018)

It’s believed the newly uncoveredtip, near the site oftheformer Stockton Colliery No. 3 shaft,was used as anillegal dumping ground decades ago.

In 1955, the North Stockton Surf Life Saving clubhouse was built on the site, that is now used as the child-care centre that is under threat from erosion. It’s understood the land was previously owned by Housing Commission of NSW.

Long-term Stockton resident Jimmy Newton said the area around the old north Stockton surf clubused to be part of the dune system leading to the beach.

He said people used to dump household rubbish in the salt bush where there were depressions.

DEADLY: A bucket full of asbestos pieces collected by resident Shannon Hancock from Stockton beach in the past five days. Some are up to 40-centimetres long.

“Decades and decades ago peopleused to getrid of their rubbish wherever they could, it’s probably a really old illegal dump,” he said. “There were old fibro houses in throughthat area that just got bulldozed into the ground, it’s impossible to know what would be in there or how big it is.”

A Newcastle City Council spokeswoman said staff wearing protective suits and masks would patrol thebeachdaily from Thursday to remove the asbestos.She said ten pieces of debriswere collected on the first day and would be tested.

“The potential asbestos containing pieces pose a very low public health risk and council is removing them on a daily basis to reduce the risk even further, allowing Stockton beach to remain open to the community,” she said.

“We do ask members of the public not to remove any of these pieces themselves as appropriate removal and disposal of any material will be undertaken by council staff.”

Related reading: Crown lands ordered to take action to prevent pollution from Stockton tip(June 7, 2018)

Stockton Community Action Group member Keith Craig said as the beach erosion gets worse, there was potential for more illegal tip sites to be exposed along the shoreline.

He said residents were “frustrated” at the what many perceived as a lack of action from the state government.

“People are suggesting we should take all the asbestos collected off the beach and dump it on [NSW Environment] Minister [Gabrielle] Upton’s doorstep,” he said.

“The situation is going to get worse every time we get a big swell. This separate tip site appears to haveasbestos in it and it’s very disturbing this stuff is now washing up at the main beach area.”

A spokesman for Minister Upton said the government had “consistently supported Newcastle City Council”in its work to manage the erosion problem. “TheGovernment has supported the management and rehabilitation of Stockton beach for many years and is committed to helping the local community,” he said.

Save Stockton Beach spokesmanSimon Jones, who has been campaigning to get Ms Upton to visit Stockton, said thegovernment could not deny its stake in the environmental disaster.

DISGUSTED: Stockton resident Shannon Hancock at the site of another old tip site uncovered on Stockton beach. This smaller illegal tip site is located near Stockton child-care centre that is under threat from erosion. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

“It appearsthey are doing everything they can to avoid the erosion issue,” he said. “We don’t know the extent of this new dump but its fairly close to the surface and it’s really concerning.

“If someone was to come along with a truckload of asbestos and dump it on the beach the authorities would be all over it, but when its heritage waste and still ending up on the beach it doesn’t seem to matter.”

While they welcomed the council’s decision to patrol the beach, residents said it was not the solution to the problem.

“We need to look at the cause of this and it’s painfully obvious what that is,” Mr Hancocksaid. “I don’t understand how the authorities can watch this erosion happen.”

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said he was “concerned” to hear that residents had been collecting asbestos off the beach forweeks. He said funding to address the beach erosion “had the potential to flow” to Stockton once the Newcastle Coastal Zone Management Plan had been completed by council and signed off by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

The draft plan,identifying short and medium-term solutions to address the erosion,is due to go before council next week for possible adoption and submission to the State government.

In December, the council removed Stockton from its coastal management plan, which proposes measures to address erosion along the coastline and is used tosecure money from an $82 million state government funding pool.

It came after OEHrefused to sign off on anearlier version of the plan, which did address the Stockton erosion problems.

After the new plan is approved, council willhave another two yearsto lodgea coastal management program to addresslong-term solutions for the beach. Both plans will be used in an effort toattract funding.

Newcastle MPTimCrakanthorp said it was an “absolute outrage” that the state government continued to “bury its head in the sand” on the issue. He said if residents were combing Bondi beach on a daily basis to collect asbestos there would be a “state emergency”.

An EPA spokeswoman said council was in charge of local waste, including asbestos on Stockton beach.