Byron’s embattled embayment plan
IS BYRON Shire facing it's King Canute moment?
At a council information meeting held Tuesday evening to gather feedback on the Draft Coastal Zone Management Plan, Byron Bay Embayment, a group of community representatives told council in no uncertain terms their plans to halt the inevitable march of the Pacific Ocean over some of the states most valuable real estate were fatally flawed.
King Canute, or to give him his correct name, Cnut the Great, was the tenth century king of Denmark, England and Norway made famous in an apocryphal story of him attempting to hold back the tide simply by the power of his majesty.
Tuesday's rowdy meeting saw around thirty people representing various community groups quiz council staff regarding the draft CZMP, its implementation timeline.
Concerns were raised regarding erosion at Watego Beach and Clarkes Beach but most concern focused on construction of a 1.1km seawall and walkway along Belongil Beach, the possible subsequent loss of the beach and the likelihood of some form of sand replenishment being introduced to maintain the beach.
According to Councillor Sol Ibrahim, council has excluded any major sand nourishment or "sand pumping" as a way of maintaining the beach, but many at Tuesday night's meeting believe the construction of the seawall is unrealistic and illegal under state government law without sand nourishment.
Cr Ibrahim did not rule out some other form of sand replenishment including beach scraping or bringing in smaller loads of sand by road.
The draft plan, currently on exhibition, takes into account the beach front stretching from Cape Byron through to South of Tyagarah, identified by the state government as a coastal erosion hotspot.
But most interest has so far focussed on the area between the surf club and Belongil Creek
Along this stretch the plan proposes a concrete stepped wall in front of the surf club, a reconstruction of the current boulder revetment along the main beach carpark and the council owned First Sun Caravan Park as well as the 1.1km seawall with a walk way, stretching from the end of Kendall St to the last house built on the Esplanade at Belongil Beach.
This wall would replace the mix of approved and unapproved rock structures that currently protect properties and state assets between Beaumont's Guest House and the last property on the Belongil Spit.
The whole plan is budgeted at nearly $23m. with construction of the Belongil seawall and walkway costed at $14.32m.
Of the $14.32m. Belongil seawall cost $12.15m. would come from landowners, $1.087m. will come from council and $1.087m. would come from the State Government.
Donald Maughan from the Community Alliance for Byron Shire (CABS) said the plan as it stands was fatally flawed.
"This document is about getting a rock wall built for land owners from the corner of Kendall Street to the end of the building blocks on the esplanade all of whom knew that they were subject to planned retreat when they bought their land," he said.
"This is an erosion hot spot with planned retreat being part of the plan since1988- We have to deal with the reality that some landowners are going to lose their properties."
Mr Maughan cited a document from the Byron Residents Group that said, "Since 1988 all prospective land purchasers have been issued with a Section 149 Certificate that stated the land was subject to erosion and that development restrictions applied. They (the landowners) know they have been required to remove their houses out of harm's way when erosion approaches. In legal terms it's a case of 'caveat emptor' or "let the buyer beware".
Mr Maughan said that the draft CZMP was a "non-plan" because it has, "no sand nourishment plan, no ecological study or flooding study as far as I can see and no real detailed analysis of where the money will come from.
"When it became apparent that sand nourishment was too controversial and costly it was removed from the plan last September," he said.
"I believe its in state legislation that if you build a rock wall then sand nourishment is also required to defend the beach."
Mr Maughan said it was also unreasonable for community members to digest the 400 page CZMP study and the associated 500 page Coastal Zone Study to make a submissions prior to the June 14 deadline.
"This process is an insult to the concept of community consultation," he said.
Byron Shire Councillor Sol Ibrahim is a staunch defender of the the draft CZMP saying that there are no surprises in the current plan
"The wall at Belongil would simply be replacing the hotchpotch of badly engineered wall that exist there now," he said.
"There has been a wall there for the last 20 years and what is proposed is far better than what is there now.
"It will follow the line as the current embayment line and retain the beach. It would also be built at a shallow angle that would mitigate against the impact of storms or waves. It would be landscaped and include a walk way and include proper stairs and disabled access."
Cr Ibrahim believes that proponents of planned retreat are being highly selective in how the policy should be applied.
"The 'planned retreat-ers' are obsessed by Belongil, if they were fair dinkum then they would include the Jonson Street rock works in the planned retreat but that is just not feasible.
"It gets down to a simple cost benefit analysis. What you gain from planned retreat is far out weighed by what you would lose.
"I believe in the general Australian principal that people should be fairly compensated and if an authority such as a council or the RMS takes over their property.
"There would be around a dozen property owners on the Belongil Spit whose properties are not covered by the 1988 change to the DCP, were planned retreat became council policy.
"So we have to be fair dinkum about the cost of compensating these property owners because that could mire council in legal action worth tens of millions of dollars over the next ten years.
Cr Ibrahim said the plan was still workable because some sand nourishment was still possible under the plan.
"What we took off the table was the option of major sand nourishment using a pipeline from Tallow Beach," he said.
"But there are still other options available to us including beach scraping and moving small loads of sand. This is something we would manage over time if problems arose."
The draft plan is available at Council's Administration Office, Station Street Mullumbimby, at the Byron Bay Library and is also on Council's website: http://yoursaybyronshire.com.au/coastal-zone-management-plan-byron-bay-embayment
To make a submission before 14 June 2016 by email to email@example.com(External link) or in writing to the General Manager, Byron Shire Council, PO Box 219 Mullumbimby 2482.