Belongil residents and their supporters gather last week at Belongil Beach.
Belongil residents and their supporters gather last week at Belongil Beach.

Belongil ‘dune defenders’ put pressure on Council

As the debate heats up over Byron Shire Council’s planned ‘retreat’ policy for Belongil residences identified at risk by coastal erosion, a group of concerned residents and their supporters met last week to plan their next move.

About 30 Belongil ‘dune defenders’ rallied to show their support for the ongoing controversial issue which has received support from many community groups including Byron United, Byron Preservation Initiative, Belongil Progress Association and Byron Shire ratepayers.

Twenty-five homes have been identified as being within 20 metres of the erosion escarpment, and 13 of those have conditions attached to their development consent which would require their relocation or demolition in the ‘at risk’ zone.

Byron Council recently voted to proceed with a ground truth survey of Belongil Beach homes to determine whether they fell within the erosion risk area.

The council says it’s in the interests of the whole community to identify buildings that could be a public safety risk as the coastline erodes.

Belongil resident Rosa Musica said residents and their supporters had to put on a display of solidarity.

“It’s one thing to sign a petition, but we need to vote with our feet,” she said.

“The council is continuing with its belligerent attitude, and responding with ‘no comment’ to questions from the press.

“We must ask our supposedly green alternatively-minded council why it is apparently ignoring the truth and sidestepping its responsibilities.”

Belongil resident Laurie Lynch said the implications of the ‘retreat’ policy had never been allowed to be discussed with the community.

“We have a stone wall, or should I say, a Barham wall,” he said.

Byron United vice-president James Lancaster said there was a lot of concern in the community about the council pursuing the ‘retreat’ policy.

He said that if council was going to undertake a truth survey for Belongil, then the survey should apply to the entire shire.

“The powerline near the main entry road into Belongil is within three metres of the coastal erosion zone, so that means that under the council’s policy, that would have to go and then what, the residents have no power,” James said.

“The same could be said for the surf club, the Byron Beach Cafe, the new Arakwal houses on Clarks Beach. They all fall within the erosion zone.

“Belongil residents are being the guinea pigs.”

Byron Bay real estate agent Owen Lynn told the gathering that the Belongil erosion issue was the biggest threat to Byron Bay since the Japanese threatened to invade our shores.

 President of the Belongil Progress Association Geoff Tauber said the council was all about demolishing homes on the dunes.

He said compensation was a major issue and the council’s policy would ‘challenge property laws’ in Australia.

Mr Tauber said the residents would continue with their campaign until a satisfactory solution was found.

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