Group says parliament "misinformed" about Belongil rock wall

THE Byron Preservation Association has said that the NSW State Parliament has been misinformed about issues surrounding the construction of a rock wall along Belongil Beach in Byron Bay.

Byron Preservation Association chairman Michael Siddle said Greens member Jan Barham's speech in Parliament last week was factually incorrect and could cloud the issue for other Members of Parliament.

"Ms Barham is on record saying the building of the rock wall is to protect private property, when in fact the wall is to protect a majority of Crown land, public beach access and infrastructure," Mr Siddle said.  

"She also said a rolling easement or a retreat process is what the community wants, however after only 100 or so people turned out for a rally on the weekend, not the reported 300, we would question this statement as well. 

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"The BPA call on Ms Barham to make these same statements outside of Parliamentary privilege to set the matter straight."

Mr Siddle went on to say that according to Council the infrastructure that would be lost by planned retreat includes roads, bridges, railway and public amenities, and costed by the Council at $200 million dollars.

In 2009 / 2010 the Council put its last plan for planned retreat on public exhibition for comment.

The Council then reported that it was not supported by 76 per cent of respondents and a futher 89 per cent 'mostly not supported'.

Ms Barham was Mayor when the Council voted in 2011 to withdraw a costal plan to adopt planned retreat.

The BPA said the rock wall is replacing existing sandbags at a public access point to the beach as the bags are deteriorating and potentially polluting the Bay, and which have cost over $2 million to maintain since first being placed, Mr Siddle said.

"Rock walls are a sound engineering solution whereas sandbags are prone to collapse and deterioration and not recommend for use on open coastline by their manufacturer," Mr Siddle said.

"As far back as 2000 engineers have warned Council that a sand bag wall would constantly fail, which led the (then) Council to support a rock wall at Manfred Street where the current wall is proposed.

"Byron Bay has had rock walls for over 40 years - the whole of Jonson Street including the swimming pool, car park and top pub has a rock wall and artificial headland in front of it built by council in the 1960s and 70s, so this proposal is nothing new - it is just filling a gap."

According to the BPA the $1.2 million for the rock wall has already been accounted for in Council's budget with private property owners contributing $300,000 towards its cost.

"Contrary to misinformation circulating in the community that the rock wall will cost 'tens of millions of dollars' to maintain, rock walls require minimal if any maintenance," Mr Siddle said.

"It is very important that all the facts are provided, especially to Parliament.

"This interim rock wall is a comparatively small extension of the existing rock protection to protect the public access, infrastructure, land and the community."

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