Councils to discuss coastal issues

THE problems faced by Northern Rivers councils – from coastal erosion to high unemployment – are the same faced by coastal councils across Australia, Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham said yesterday.

Today her point will be proven when Byron Bay hosts the two-day 2010 Australian Coastal Councils Conference at the Byron Bay Community Centre.

Today and tomorrow, councillors from across Australia will gather at the centre to discuss and listen to ideas on how to address some of the biggest issues facing coastal communities.

Cr Barham said the annual conference was a good way for councils to compare notes on problems that they might otherwise think were unique to them.

Cr Barham said she got to demonstrate some of those similarities to a group of councillors from Bass – which includes holiday spot Phillip Island – on Friday night.

“Phillip Island is very like Byron Bay, with New Year’s Eve, Schoolies and events,” Cr Barham said. “They are dealing with many of the same issues and alcohol keeps coming up as a big issue.

“On Friday night Franz Ferdinand was playing at the Beachie (Beach Hotel) so they got to see it in full swing – the town was packed.”

But it was the coastal erosion issue – so dramatically put under the spotlight during last year’s storms and with the court case that followed it – that was the key reason for the placement of this year’s conference at Byron Bay.

“In the last year the focus has been on Byron and that means a lot of councils are making contact and are interested in what we’re doing,” Cr Barham said.

“I was at a forum in Adelaide last week and people were making comments about Belongil – and I had to say to them, don’t rely on what you’ve seen in the media.

“In the last year there have been many councils approaching Byron about planned retreat (the approach to coastal erosion at the centre of the debate over the future of Belongil) and there have been court case judgements in Victoria and South Australia.”

Those judgements reinforced the idea that councils would be liable if they failed to address predicted sea level rises and coastal erosion zones in their planning policies, Cr Barham said.

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