Byron United vice-president, James Lancaster, makes a point at last Friday’s panel discussion at Mullumbimby.
Byron United vice-president, James Lancaster, makes a point at last Friday’s panel discussion at Mullumbimby.

Anger and threats at symposium

There wasn’t too much love in the air at the Byron Council chambers at Mullumbimby at last Friday’s panel discussion on the controversial draft coastal management plan.

But there was a touch of anger and a pointed threat to councillors that they would be held personally liable if they approved the plan which supports the idea of a planned retreat for dealing with coastal erosion.

The threat came from Geoff Tauber, president of the Belongil Progress Association, who said the draft plan amounted to compulsory acquisition without compensation.

Mr Tauber said the council planned to protect its assets with upgraded rock walls, while offering no protection for Belongil Beach properties.

He asked whether it was lawful to protect part of a community while causing damage to another part.
Mr Tauber said Belongil residents hoped the council would come to its senses and cease to pursue an ‘invalid’ plan.

It was a theme taken up by Byron United vice-president, James Lancaster, who called on the council to abolish the planned retreat policy which he said would lead not only to the destruction of private property, but public assets as well.

Mr Lancaster said there had been no economic or social impact statements and asked how much the ‘unworkable’ draft policy would cost the community in the future.

 He said the cost of implementing the policy would be astronomical and had not been addressed.

Byron United called on the council to scrap the draft policy and focus on helping coastal communities deal with the potential impacts of climate change and protection from immediate storm threats rather than pursuing the political aspirations of a few to the cost of many, he said.

Citing potential sea level rises caused by climate change, Dailan Pugh, speaking for the environmental group, BEACON, supported the planned retreat policy.

Mr Pugh said time and energy should not be wasted on the ‘undefendable’.

He said people who had bought property in areas such as Belongil Beach should have known what they were buying into.

On Monday, Byron Mayor Cr Jan Barham rejected the proposition councillors would be held personally liable if they approved the draft plan.

Cr Barham said the council had followed a process ‘in alignment with the manual and with State Government involvement at every stage’.

By following that process, she said, councillors were protected against any individual legal claims.

The draft plan is on public exhibition until December 22, with a final report expected to go before the council next February.

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