Alliance: Councillors betray community on Byron rock walls

THE Community Alliance for Byron Shire were shocked when council approved the Draft Coastal Zone Management Plan to proceed to the next stage.

The Byron Shire Council motion promotes a preferred plan to build a rock wall at Belongil stretching for1 km with a walkway along the top - presumably because it will be needed when the beach disappears because of accelerated erosion caused by the wall, President of Suffolk Park Progress Association, a member of the Community Alliance, Donald Maughan said.

"The only beneficiaries of this proposal are Belongil landowners and real estate agents," Mr Maughan said.

"Council has put forward rock walls as the best option for the Bay, based on a Cost BenefitAnalysis that has already been strongly criticised by the state government. This proposaldoes not count the social or environmental costs or the impacts on tourism and public amenity.

"They want this CZMP signed, sealed and delivered by the end of June and it is woefullylacking on every level.

"Council has refused to even consider the mouth of the Belongil estuary and the impacts on it of their proposed works yet it is a key part of both the coastline and the beach.

"Their preferred option will transfer erosion from Belongil beach onto the estuary, ignoring the importance of the estuary for marine ecosystem functioning and as a roosting, nesting and feeding area for a multitude of threatened birds.

"Additionally this proposal has chosen to ignore the inevitable impacts of rock walls in creating erosion to the north, particularly at the Elements resort, which will likely result in compensation claims by those landowners.

"The five members of Council have chosen to ignore all compelling scientific evidence that proves that rock walls exacerbate beach erosion and intend to overturn a 30-year policy of 'planned retreat'.

"They are ignoring good science and good management and introducing a dangerous precedent that will lock ratepayers into footing the costs of stabilising Belongil and compensating landowners into the future until the rising seas overwhelm our puny but expensive defences.

"Since 1988 the community has continued to support 'planned retreat' as a response to coastal erosion.

"Council's preferred option takes no account of the results of Council's own stakeholder engagement by consultants Umwelt (2014). According to Umwelt's report the highest level of disagreement (68%) was with the statement: 'If I had to choose between a rock wall (to protect built assets) and maintaining a sandy beach, I'd go for the rock wall'.

"This is another example of planning done without regard to the future, to what the greater community wants and what is best for our treasured natural environment."

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