Angry Byron residents plan to withhold rates over rock wall
ANGRY Byron Shire residents may withhold their rates if the council goes ahead with a $1.2 million temporary rock wall at Belongil Beach.
The ratepayers will meet at The Wreck, Main Beach, at 1pm this Sunday for a protest rally that will include music and speeches from Greens Ballina MP Tamara Smith and Byron Shire councillor Duncan Day.
"A lot of people are angry about the out of control decisions being made by (Byron Shire Council) that don't reflect ratepayers' wishes," local resident Ruth Winton-Brown said.
Organisers were hoping up to 1000 people would attend the event, which would raise the issue of a possible rates boycott.
Debate about the rock wall, in Manfred Street, where sandbags are currently installed, continues to intensify.
Andrew Winton-Brown, a Byron ratepayer since 1984 who holds a degree in civil engineering, has said the council previously had a policy of "planned retreat". This is a coastal hazards management approach that allows natural processes to take place without building large engineering structures.
Along with other members of the Byron Residents Group, he has questioned why the council has decided to build a wall at all, or at least not wait until a new Coastal Zone Management Plan was in place and costs and liabilities could be shared with the State Government, not borne by ratepayers alone.
Councillor Sol Ibrahim said the bulk of the money for the rock wall would not come from general rates revenue but from an accumulated infrastructure and coastal management works reserve funds. An amount of $300,000 would be contributed by landowners on Belongil beachfront.
Belongil resident Laurie Lynch, who sat on council committees between 2002 and 2008, told the Northern Star that "half of the people (who are objecting to the rock wall) don't know what they are talking about".
"I say to those residents, we didn't hear the same outcry about council spending money when Wilson Creek Road or Lighthouse Road fell away," he said.
On its social media page Byron Residents Group, protesters have asked: "Why sacrifice all Byron's surf breaks for a small part of Belongil Beach?"
The rock is just the beginning, they say - "next comes groynes and sand nourishment that involve dredging and pumping sand".
At 3pm protesters are invited to attend a Save Byron's Beaches rally, at Byron Community Centre organised by Positive Change for Marine Life.