Cyclone Pam in 1974 caused massive beach erosion at Byron Bay.
Cyclone Pam in 1974 caused massive beach erosion at Byron Bay.

Seas, wind cause havoc


Since 1928, there have been at least 14 recorded major cyclones which have had some kind of impact on the Byron Shire.

The worst of those were in 1954 and 1974, with destructive seas and winds in the 1954 event destroying much of the town's second jetty and wiping out the Byron Bay fishing fleet.

In February 1974, the shire was hit by Cyclone Pam and a month later by Cyclone Zoe.

Both caused extensive beach erosion and property damage with surf club buildings at Byron Bay and Brunswick Heads threatened.

Both cyclones led to widespread flooding in the region.

In February 1990, Tropical Cyclone Nancy crossed the NSW coast near Byron Bay as a category 2 cyclone (Cyclone Tracey was category 4) before moving out to sea again.

Apart from cyclones, the shire also has been hit by many ferocious storms over the years, one of the worst in living memory happening in December 1979.

It caused widespread damage to buildings in the Byron Bay CBD and to homes and also to the industrial estate.

Over the years, big seas have constantly threatened homes at Belongil Beach with the most recent threat in 1999 when an emergency was declared and huge bags filled with sand were placed on the beach to protect homes.

So, what is the likelihood of the shire being hit by another cyclone?

Last November, Jim Davidson, the regional director of the Bureau of Meteorology in Queensland - where our cyclones come from - said that based on the best information, the lengthy run of relatively quiet cyclone seasons was likely to continue.

Mr Davidson said to confidently predict an active season, it would require either a moderate to strong La Nina or a link established to the extreme hurricane activity in Florida and Japan happening at the time.

He said neither was the case, so the number of tropical cyclones in the Coral Sea this season had only an outside chance of exceeding two or three and not all would cross the coast.

However, Mr Davidson said it was only a matter of time before a severe cyclone did strike a coastal community and this occasionally happened during otherwise quiet seasons.

The threat to property in the By- ron Shire through coastal erosion was officially recognised back in 1979 with the release of the State Government report, Byron Bay-Hastings Point Erosion.

In a foreword to the report, the then Minister for Public Works, Jack Ferguson, said the study revealed "that about $14 million worth of public and private assets could be lost to the ocean over the next 50 years as a result of the forces of erosion".

The report pointed to the village of Sheltering Palms, just to the north of Brunswick Heads, which was abandoned because of the severe erosion in the 1960s and 70s.

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