Debate rages over plans for rock walls at Belongil Beach

A STOUSH between ratepayers and Byron Shire Council is brewing over plans to spend $1.2 million on temporary rock walls at Belongil Beach.

Residents say only $300,000, or less than half of their share of the cost, will be borne by those who have properties on the beach, for what is only a 10-year solution to beach erosion.

Andrew Winton-Brown, a Byron ratepayer since 1984 who holds a degree in civil engineering, said the Council had 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 to counteract those processes.

Mr Winton-Brown said designs for the temporary walls showed the Manfred St portion of the works to be estimated at more than $800,000 with over 80% of these walls protecting private property.

He also questioned why the council was not waiting until a new Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) was in place, at which time all the costs and liabilities would be shared with the State Government, not borne by ratepayers alone.

MORE: Byron coastal options include sand pumping, giant rock wall

The council's director of sustainable environment and economies, Shannon Burt, said a new draft CZMP Byron Bay Embayment was being prepared.

"As part of preparing the draft CZMP BBE, a raft of management options are under consideration and these include planned retreat as well as protective, engineering options and a hybrid, adaptive management scheme that includes seawalls, small scale sand transfer and groyne(s) (rock walls),"she said.

Ms Burt confirmed an interim rock wall was to be constructed at Manfred St.

The council's director of infrastructure services, Phil Holloway, said a report on the interim beach access stabilisation project was going to the council on May 21.

"The report will consider how and when construction will proceed," he said.

He said that the cost of the interim beach access stabilisation works could not be released at this stage, as a contract for the work has not been awarded.

"This will be considered at the May meeting," Mr Holloway said.

"Landowners have agreed to fund $300,000 (ex GST) towards the interim wall."

Mr Holloway said the Office of Environment and Heritage had indicated that it would not fund the current design of the interim beach access stabilisation works which have adopted by the council.

"It is not possible to predict what funding contributions might be made to CZMP BBE options," Mr Holloway said.

Mr Winton-Brown said: "Why are we building this (rock wall) at all?"

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