Byron council draws a line in the sand

By MEGAN KINNINMENT

BYRON Shire Council has picked a fight this week with some of Byron Bay's wealthiest residents over their ocean-front properties.

The council passed a contentious retreat plan as the preferred option as part of its coastline management study to deal with erosion at Belongil Beach and New Brighton.

The plan would see multi-millionaire residents such as Paul Hogan and John Cornell forced to abandon their expensive beach shacks if the ocean continues its journey inland.

The retreat plan, made solid by Greens mayor Cr Jan Barham's casting vote, is the culmination of decades of debate over whether to let nature take its course along the coastline, or to protect expensive beachfront property from the sea.

The issue came to a head in 1999, when Belongil residents built up sandbags and rock walls to protect their ocean-front properties from violent storms, and was again on the agenda earlier this year when Belongil was rated by the NSW Greenhouse Office as one of State's hot spots for coastal erosion.

Residents yesterday reacted angrily to the plan, accusing the council of 'copping out' by not spending the money needed on rock walls to protect properties.

Belongil resident John Vaughn said he may be 'first cab of the rank' in taking the council to court.

"I've already lost 400 square metres of property due to erosion that has been caused by the council's own artificial headland and rock walls at Main Beach," Mr Vaughn said.

"The question will be whose fault is it that homes are lost?"

Cr Barham defended her stand. "This is not a new policy," she said. "The council has made this stand since 1988, and anyone who has bought or built property since then has known they are in a coastal ero- sion zone."

What do you think?

Phone the Star Feedback line on 6624 3266 or email opin- ions@northernstar.com.au



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