CENTRE POINT: Members of the Belongil Catchment Drainage Board Mark Tidswell and Tom Vidal stand beside the Central Union Drain near the middle of two proposed West Byron Developments.
CENTRE POINT: Members of the Belongil Catchment Drainage Board Mark Tidswell and Tom Vidal stand beside the Central Union Drain near the middle of two proposed West Byron Developments. Christian Morrow

Warning of CBD flooding danger from West Byron.

TWO controversial developments at West Byron could land in deep water after failing to consult with local landowners.

At last week's meeting of the Joint Regional Planning Panel, Tom Vidal made a submission on behalf of the Belongil Catchment Drainage Board (BCDB) saying proponents of the two separate developments planned for just outside outside Byron Bay had so far failed to consult with the drainage board, something they were required to do under the Water Management Act.

In his presentation to the Joint Regional Planning Panel, Mr Vidal quoted from the act:

"...a private drainage board has to approve a new subdivided lot to connect to its drainage system, all works constructed or to be constructed must be constructed in accordance with the approval in writing of the board in respect of location, design, form, dimensions and construction.”

Mr Vidal also warned the twin West Byron developments, if approved in their current form, might increase the danger of flooding in the low-lying parts of the Byron CBD during any significant rain event.

"The existing drain system is already struggling to cope with outflows from the West Byron Sewerage Treatment Plant, let alone the increased run-off from the proposed developments,” he said.

Adding to the pressure is the nature of Belongil Creek, which in its natural state is an intermittently closing and opening lake and lagoon (ICOLL).

Mr Vidal said that given the Jonson St roundabout was currently significantly lower than land at the middle of the proposed West Byron Developments, if Belongil Creek was closed or restricted, as was often the case, the water would have nowhere to go except into town.

Developers' plans may be further affected if it's confirmed ultimate ownership of the drain system, together with a 30-metre easement either side, rests with Byron Shire Council.

"It is not clear whether it is operational or community land,” Byron Mayor Simon Richardson said.

"If council does own the land then we will certainly be exercising our ownership rights when it comes to storm water.

"We need to get absolute clarity on ownership but that may take some time. We are doing our due diligence, hopefully the JRPP are doing the same.”

THE Byron Shire News met with two directors of the BCDB on site last week, Mark Tidswell and Tom Vidal.

The BCDB is a group of local landholders in the Belongil catchment responsible for the two main stormwater channels that flow into Belongil Creek.

These are the the Union Drain, from Ewingsdale to the Belongil Creek, and the Central Union Drain, from the industrial estate through the West Byron area to Belongil Creek.

"The main objective of a private drainage board is to keep the district drained and make it suitable for agriculture and now, of course, also for human habitation and, very importantly, to achieve that in an environmentally sound and responsible way,” Mr Vidal said. "But the developers have simply not ticked all the boxes.

"The drainage issue has not been satisfactorily addressed so far. They will be sending stormwater onto neighbouring land and that is both outrageous and illegal.”

Mr Tidswell said the BCDB was trying to protect valuable community infrastructure and the drain network was designed to only carry natural rainfall and would struggle to cope with any increased stormwater run-off from the West Byron developments.

The Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel, headed by chairman Garry West, is appointed by the State Government to decide the fate of any state-significant development applications.

The two developments at West Byron are proposed by Villa World, a Queensland development company, and local group the Byron Bay Landowners Association, and would see an existing 15 lots divided into 677 residential lots consisting of low and medium-density housing, as well as a number of commercial, industrial and recreational lots.

Byron Shire Council recently received 5000 submissions regarding the so-called mega-developments and is preparing its submission to the JRPP.

Mayor Simon Richardson told the Byron Shire News he does not expect a decision on the developments before next year.

A recent rally held in Byron Bay attracted about 1000 opponents to the developments, with speakers including Byron councillor Cate Coorey and Ballina MP Tamara Smith.

Parliamentary secretary for the North Coast Ben Franklin has also echoed local concerns.

Opponents cite poor planning, environmental degradation, increased traffic, destruction of koala and other wildlife habitat and contamination of Belongil Creek by acid sulphate soils as reasons why the developments should not go ahead.

- Both Villaworld and the Byron Bay Landowners Association were contacted for this story.


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