BALLAD OF THE BYRON WALL: Members of the Community Alliance for Byron Shire Choir including past Byron Shire Mayor Jan Barham rehearse out side Byron Shire Council Chambers.
BALLAD OF THE BYRON WALL: Members of the Community Alliance for Byron Shire Choir including past Byron Shire Mayor Jan Barham rehearse out side Byron Shire Council Chambers. Christian Morrow

Ballad of Byron coastal plan fails to stop Belongil wall

DESPITE a singing protest in the Council Chambers and vociferous opposition during a marathon public access session, Byron Shire Council voted on Wednesday to send the controversial Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP)- Byron Bay Embayment through to the State Minister for certification and final approval.

Members of the Community Alliance for Byron Shire (CABS) packed out the chamber and serenaded the councillors with their song 'Wise Men Don't Build Houses on Sand' after the vote was taken with Councillors Cubis, Ibrahim, Woods, Hunter and Wanchap voting in favour of the plan.

As the impromptu performance started Mayor Simon Richardson called a recess for the meeting

The new plan focuses around a $23m. rock sea wall and walkway that would stretch 1.1 kilometres from Kendall St to the end of the Belongil sand spit.

Mayor Simon Richardson said he was disappointed to see the plan adopted hopes the minister would share it with the Coastal Panel, " who are the acknowledged experts in Coastal management."

"Ultimately it is up to the minister to ratify it or send it back to us for more work," he said.

"When you have a report that the overwhelming majority of state agencies has said not only is flawed but contravenes what a coastal zone management plan should be, as outlined in the Coastal Protection Act, and attracts widespread community opposition, it is just staggering to think we are going to submit it."

"For me the process has been abysmal, the lack of acceptance of scientific and technical expertise is really problematic and the fact that the community feel they have been written out of the equation really shames us (council) as an organisation that is meant to reflect the community's values.

One of the CZMP's key backers, Councillor Sol Ibrahim, said he was saddened that the issue had been so divisive for the community.

Arguments that rock walls on Belongil Beach have led to a loss of beach held no sway for councillors in favour of the plan.

"If there were no rock walls there already (on Belongil), I don't think I would be advocating for a rock wall now, I would be advocating for a buy out of properties and moving towards planned retreat," he said.

"But I am dealing with a practical realities here.

"There has been wall there for the last 20 years and what is proposed is far better than what is there now."

"I can't emphasise enough that if you are going to talk about rock walls, you can't ignore the negative impact that the wall at Jonson Street has had on Belongil (so we have to protect Belongil)."

Cr Ibrahim also said the profile of the old walls were too steep and had exacerbated sand movement and the new sea wall with walkway would be more like the shape of the newly completed section of wall at Manfred Street and would enable the sand to return over time.

During recent public exhibition the plan attracted 689 submissions with some in the chamber including President of the Byron Residents Group Cate Coorey raising concerns that many of the submissions are from people who do not live in the Shire

"We also know that Belongil landowners contacted people who patronise their holiday lets and told them to send in a submission," she said. "This is utterly unacceptable. We deserve to know where the submissions are coming from.

Donald Maughan, President of the Suffolk Park Progress Association (also part of CABS) has previously said the CZMP was fatally flawed and a "non plan" because, "there is no sand nourishment plan, no ecological study of flooding as far as I can see and no real analysis of where the money will come from".

Deputy Mayor Councillor Paul Spooner re-iterated his concerns the plan centred around a 1.1km rock sea wall with walkway will inevitably make it necessary to construct a number of groynes and undertake small scale beach nourishment.

"If all three 3 stages (rock walls, groynes and beach nourishment) of the Adaptive Management option outlined in the WRL Coastal Hazard Management Study (page 98) have to be implemented due to the loss of the beach at Belongil, it will cost $36,115,520."

He is also concerned that this could impact the overall council budget

"Council would need to cut $10 million in existing programs and services over the next 10 years to pay for this CZMP," he said.


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