Guastella, L.A., Smith, A, M., Breetzke T., 2014. Coastal management and mis-management: comparing successes and failures at two lagoon outlets in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. In: Green, A.N. and Cooper, J.A.G. (eds.), Proceedings 13th International Coastal Symposium (Durban, South Africa), Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 70, pp. 513–520, ISSN 0749-0208.
KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has a high energy, dynamic coastline. The coast is a significant asset, utilised for residential, industrial, transport, nature conservation and recreational purposes. It is also the discharge point for many steep gradient, short-headed rivers. These rivers have highly variable discharges and, together with variable coastal erosion and deposition cycles, place stress on coastal resources and infrastructure. Many of the rivers, particularly those with smaller catchments, discharge into back-beach lagoons before discharging into the ocean. Lagoon outlet dynamics are variable and, when combined with ocean swells and/or river flooding, can cause erosion. Coastal managers need to be aware of the risks to coastal assets and to this end, informed decision-making is vital to ensure sustainability of coastal resources and protection of coastal infrastructure, albeit often inappropriately located. While a strategy of non-intervention of lagoon outlets is always preferable, there comes a point when intervention may be necessary to protect coastal infrastructure, particularly if the intervention can replicate natural processes. Fixed coastal webcams, backed up by on-site photography, are used to illustrate two contrasting examples of coastal management on the KZN south coast at: (a) Margate where intervention resulted in the saving of coastal infrastructure, and (b) Amanzimtoti where a lack of intervention resulted in a train derailment, loss of infrastructure, injuries and significant repair costs. This paper critically reviews these contrasting examples and concludes that a greater understanding of lagoon outlet dynamics can significantly contribute to improved coastal management practices, and in this instance, could have prevented this derailment.