ERODING RELATIONSHIP: The dispute between Byron Shire Council and Belongil residents over their rights to make efforts to curb beach erosion continues. Now calls are being made for a third party to intervene.
ERODING RELATIONSHIP: The dispute between Byron Shire Council and Belongil residents over their rights to make efforts to curb beach erosion continues. Now calls are being made for a third party to intervene.

Sand wedge intractable

THE battle between Byron Shire Council and Belongil residents has become so bitter it cannot be resolved without the intervention of a third party, Lennox Head-based Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack says.

Ms Cusack, who is the NSW Opposition spokeswoman on environment and climate change, wants an independent coastal panel made up of experts who can step in at the direction of the Minister when a council is unable to resolve issues surrounding coastal erosion.

Such a panel is proposed under new State Government legislation currently being prepared, but Ms Cusack has questioned its likely effectiveness because half its members would be supplied by members of the Local Government and Shires Association, and the association would have a veto over experts appointed to the panel.

Ms Cusack said the panel needed to be able to operate as a ‘step-in authority’ to resolve ‘intractable’ disputes such as the one at Byron.

“It’s a unique case there, but it’s a case where it needs a step-in authority to resolve the dispute between the two parties,” she said.

“The council has a very strong political view, which it is entitled to have ... but they have run a political view as a legal case against their own residents.

“They will never engage in a constructive process to solve the problem at Belongil. It’s intractable.”

Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham could not be contacted yesterday, but Belongil landowner John Vaughan, who has been involved in a lengthy legal battle with the council for the right to protect his beachfront property, backed Ms Cusack, saying he would welcome an independent panel to decide on issues such as Belongil, even if it meant the panel decided against residents.

Mr Vaughan was scathing of the Government’s efforts at framing the Coastal Protection Bill, saying what had begun as an attempt to help property owners protect their homes had devolved into an attempt to dodge legal responsibility for coastal erosion.

Mr Vaughan said he would welcome ‘anything’ that offered a‘uniform, equitable response to coastal planning’.



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