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The Great Wall of Towra

In 1997/98 volunteers constructed a sandbag leeve to protect a once freshwater lagoon from saltwater inundation


Towra Lagoon (below) is an item of great cultural and natural heritage significance as it was mapped by Captain Cook when he was in the Bay in 1770. Unfortunately, significant dredging in the once shallow Botany Bay (approximately 65 million tonnes of sand) has increased the intensity of waves impacting on Towra Point. Over 20 metres of beach in front of the lagoon has been eroded to the point now where saltwater is thrust into the lagoon during storm conditions.

The Project

In 1997/98 the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre coordinated construction of a sandbag levee which is designed to protect the once freshwater lagoon from wave inundation from Botany Bay. All stages of the project were directed by local environmentalist and long-time Towra/Botany Bay campaigner, Mr Bernie Clarke OAM. Funds for the project were provided by the NSW State Government through its Environmental Trusts with additional support from National Parks and Wildlife Service and the NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation.
NPWS carried out an environmental impact assessment and assisted in transport and supervision.

The project provided a good opportunity for community participation and education in relation to the significance and conservation of the lagoon precinct and the Reserve. Construction was undertaken by groups of volunteers from the local community, local school students, young unemployed people from the Greencorps 2000 program, international backpackers from the Australian Trust for Conservation Volunteers and Lend Lease employees who contributed their annual community day to the project.
The photo (above) shows the Lend Lease employees and others working on the wall. On completion, the wall comprised approximately 9000 sandbags and extended for about 100m.

Towards the end of construction the new artificial protective barrier (i.e. the sandbag wall) was being supplemented and reinforced by deposition and collection of sand at the wall base on the Botany Bay side. Furthermore, this sand had begun to be colonised by vegetation. It can be seen that the sandbag wall not only itself provide protection for the lagoon, but facilitated the production of an additional vegetated protective foredune. You can see in the photos below the progressive build up of sand near the wall to a point where, in September 1998, the sand had reached the height of the wall itself (bottom right).
Sep. 1997 Nov. 1997 Apr. 1998
Sep. 1998
The sandbag wall was desiged to provide short term protection to the lagoon. It was not designed to cope with severe storms of which there have been a number since the wall was completed. A large-scale long-term solution to erosion on Towra Beach is required to protect the lagoon and vegetation behind it. See Latest News for more details.


This project has been assisted by the NSW Government through its Environmenal Trusts
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