Central Coast earthworks specialist Adam Lowe is helping with emergency remediation work at Wamberal beach with a fleet of strategically positioned Komatsu machines, guided by experience going back 20 years.
A massive storm on July 16 swept the beach away from under 40 clifftop homes causing them to be evacuated and sparked a reclamation program overseen by the NSW state government.
Adam Lowe Earthmoving was called in to help execute a program of emergency restoration which involved laying several tens of thousands of tonnes of rock reinforcements – and building a new beach-road each day to get to the site.
Lowe, modestly, says he just happened to have machinery available when the Central Coast Council needed his urgent help.
But he has spent several years undertaking private projects for residents along the foreshore, so he knows the beach well, and 35 years ago he was involved in a remediation project on the Great Barrier Reef’s Dunk Island that gave him specialist knowledge of delicate environmentally sensitive beach work.
Lowe Earthmoving has placed three Komatsu excavators on the beach fitted with grabs and buckets to dig trenches and footings and place two forms of rock reinforcement between the sea and the cliff face.
Tidal movements mean that the excavators have to be removed at each high tide.
Lowe’s newly purchased Komatsu D65 PXi-18 bulldozer, fitted with a Power Angle Tilt (PAT) blade, it builds a road above the tidal mark after each high tide to enable excavators and dump trucks to come and go.
“The PAT blade is ideal for the job because it enables the operator to cut the road and give more substance to the surface,” Adam said. “Wamberal Beach has its own problems because its sand particles are the same size and don’t readily bind together, making the base extremely loose and soft.”
The Komatsu D65 acts also as a tow vehicle with a soft sling able to be hooked up to the dump trucks when they become bogged. Two rock formations are being used in the emergency remediation. One end of the beach is being reinforced with 1-1.2metre rocks each weighing around three tonnes and the other end with smaller Gabion retaining wall rock placed into 4 tonne bags.
Lowe has supplied a Komatsu PC 138 excavator in the Wamberal Surf Club car park to receive the rock, fill the bags and then a crane load them onto council trucks to transfer to the 220 tonne crane in the street which lowers rock filled bags over the affected houses and onto the beach where a team of two Komatsu’s, a PC 240LC and PC 300LC, position them into footings and trenches.
The PC300 has been borrowed from another local company John Borg of Borg Manufacturing, who Lowe said is also a resident of one of the houses above and has a keen interest in seeing the job completed.
It is a slow and painstaking task – made more so by the extreme weather conditions in which the team must work.
“We use the downtime off the beach to thoroughly washdown our machinery with fresh water and a biodegradable lubricant to minimize corrosion,” Adam Lowe said. “Even though we absolutely will not drive in the surf there is still a degree of salt in the sand that must be removed.”
It’s a technique with which he is very familiar. Lowe began his business 20 years ago when his father disbanded the family’s hardwood sawmilling operation and at the same time cut short Adam’s own ambitions to become a charter boat operator.
“I’d done a fair bit of sailing and machinery driving around Far North Queensland and that’s where I got my first experience at tidal sand remediation when we rebuilt the Spit at Dunk Island”, he said. “I’d hoped to buy a charter boat to take advantage of tourism around the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the America’s Cup in New Zealand, but a combination of factors led me to this earthmoving business instead.”
Lowe and his wife Margo have carved a major place in the development of the Central Coast with a largely Komatsu machinery fleet undertaking a variety of commercial, industrial, rural, domestic and government work.
They have reinforced their belief in the future of the region with a just completed $2.3million investment in a new state of the art 720 square metre machinery workshop at Somersby, more than doubling their capacity. They have purchased a Komatsu CX 50 series IC forklift for the workshop.
“We decided several years ago to rationalize our fleet to one major manufacturer,” Adam said. The pair now have 14 Komatsu’s in active service and continue to upgrade as each machine reaches their self-imposed critical 6,500 - 7,000-hour operational ceiling.
The new D65-PXi-18 bulldozer, delivered in the first quarter of 2020, is the first fitted with Komatsu’s exclusive Intelligent Machine Control, although its specific current task on Wamberal Beach makes no call on the technology.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed them. “In fact, we couldn’t meet all the demand if it came our way,” Adam said.