ACCESS ALL AREAS: The crew from BSC restoring beach access at Main Beach Byron Bay.
ACCESS ALL AREAS: The crew from BSC restoring beach access at Main Beach Byron Bay. Christian Morrow

RICHMOND CANDIDATES: Coastal protection

THE STORM that recently battered the East Coast of NSW coincided with the exhibition period for the Draft Coastal Zone Management Plan, Byron Bay Embayment here in Byron Bay.

There was dramatic losses on Sydney’s northern beaches and to a lesser extent here in the Byron Shire. Large amounts of sand were stripped from a new section of rock wall at Belongil Beach as well as damage to north-facing beaches such as Clarkes Beach and Wategos Beach.

The deadline for submissions on the DCZMP closed this week but one of its key recommendations is the construction of a 1.1km rock wall to replace a hotchpotch of sand bag and stone walls protecting homes and state assets between Kendall St and the end of the Belongil spit.

The local community, like others up and down the coast, is divided over how best to protect our coastline and who should pay for this.

Some contend that property owners in the area knew their homes were on unstable sand, and nature should be allowed to take its course with the houses removed if they become threatened.

Even though this is strictly speaking a state and council issue, coastal erosion effects large areas up and down the Richmond electorate, and a federal members attitude would still hold some sway in the debate.

So this week we asked Richmond candidates: “Should we build rock sea walls to protect private property on our coast line here in the Richmond electorate and who should pay for them?”

Labor: Justine Elliot

WE must take action to protect our coastline from future damage.

We all acknowledge there is too much at stake with coastal buildings and public infrastructure like roads, power, water and sewerage that are at risk if we leave coastal erosion to proceed unchecked.

Protecting our coastline must be a part of overall climate change mitigation strategies.

I understand that the Byron Shire Council is currently assessing the Draft Coastal Zone Management Plan and the final determination will inform a ‘best practice’ approach to managing the beach and coastal zones of the shire.

I believe there needs to be greater community consultation about the array of possible mitigation treatments before any final decision is taken.

This conversation needs to be greater than just about a seawall at Belongil because the decisions made today will impact generations of residents across many wide-ranging aspects across the region.

National: Matthew Fraser

WE NEED to face facts – climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of these weather events. Although the Paris agreement aims to keep warming below two degrees, we also need to look at mitigating the risks associated with extreme weather.

If rock sea walls are going to protect against coastal erosion, and they aren’t going to wreck the amenity or function of our coasts, then I support them.

As for who pays, I think it is appropriate for public money to be invested in protecting public land, but where the walls are there to protect private property, then there should be a partnership between Government and private property owners.

The Belongil Beach rock wall is a prime example, and although it is contentious, I support the precedent of property owners working with council.

The NSW Government has just announced $83.6 million towards coastline management.

Greens: Dawn Walker

RATHER than solve the problem, rock walls can be problematic. They are commonly known to increase erosion, reduce public safety and amenity and set an unwanted precedent for the NSW coastline.

Australian governments at all levels are considering statutory and regulatory instruments to manage sea level rise as a result of climate change. Response to these sea level rises and the associated biophysical impacts, is usually either to protect (rock walls), accommodate or retreat.

Byron Shire Council has had a policy of ‘planned retreat’ through its planning controls for coastal development, (as part of its local environment plan) since 1988.

Planned retreat is a planning and land use management tool that details the limits to development in coastal areas deemed to be vulnerable to hazards.

This way, prospective property owners are fully informed of the relevant planning requirements.

One Nation: Neil Smith

EVEN though One Nation doesn’t officially have a policy on this matter of erosion, I have a personal opinion.

Coastal erosion is very much a State and council issue rather than Federal, but I think sea walls or barricades should be built and the cost should be shared between the owners, who should have known better, and the council and State treasuries.

Animal Justice Party: Angela Pollard

OUR shoreline is home to many threatened migratory shorebirds, water birds and marine animals that use the estuaries and wetlands to feed, shelter and raise their young.

Local councils consider infrastructure issues in isolation and so rock walls are built to protect seafront properties while ignoring the needs of other species.

Rock walls shift the damage to unprotected parts of the coastline, causing erosion to estuaries and wetlands.

Recent storm damage highlighted other hazards, with plastic from the Belongil wall contaminating the shoreline.

In this context, the Animal Justice Party does not support rock wall construction that endangers the habitat of other species.

Christian Democratic Party: Russell Kilarney

At time of going to print this week BSN had not heard from Mr Kilarney.

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