Byron Bay's Clarkes Beach on December 14, 2020 (Image: AAP/Dan Peled)

At Byron Bay, Main Beach has collapsed into the sea. Across the north coast of New South Wales, surging tides and violent storms have led to the worst coastal erosion in years. But is this a one-off freak summer of flood or the new normal? The answer is... well, kind of both.

What’s going on in Byron Bay?

The situation at Byron, and northern NSW more broadly is down to the perfect storm of both short- and long-term factors, says University of Sydney professor Andrew Short. At Byron’s Main Beach, the unique movement of sand around the headland means every few years you get a situation where there’s less sand.

“It’s a totally natural thing that’s been going on for thousands of years,” Short said.