Sea wall defences defended

A PROMINENT local coastal erosion expert has sided with Belongil landowners, saying that finishing a rock wall would have little environmental impact.

Residents on the Belongil were celebrating this week after the State Government announced plans to allow property owners to appeal directly to the Government if a council refused to let them defend their properties.

Belongil property owners have waged a long-running battle with Byron Shire Council over its 'planned retreat' approach to coastal erosion, saying their homes are being jeopardised because of the rock wall supporting the Main Beach car park a few hundred metres down the beach.

Belongil landowner John Vaughan said a gap in an old rock wall outside his home and the neighbouring, council-owned block was badly eroded during the May storms. He said property owners feared that unless the wall was filled in, a storm would eventually smash through the spit into Belongil creek, causing massive property damage to surrounding properties before surging through the creek and flooding the town.

However, Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham has slammed the proposed changes, saying building new rock walls at Belongil would ultimately destroy the beach and Byron Bay's attractiveness to tourist. She said the proposed changes offered a false hope to property owners because environmental considerations meant new rock walls would never be approved.

Southern Cross University coastal erosion, climate change and environmental planning expert Professor Bill Boyd said Cr Barham was right - but not when it came to Belongil.

Prof Boyd backed the Belongil property owners, saying the 'hardening' around the car park was responsible for the erosion problems faced by properties to the north.

And he said completing the rock wall that ran north and south of Mr Vaughan would have little impact on the beach.

“This is an example of where a small amount of engineering work can have a good effect,” he said.

However, the same solution applied at other erosion hot-spots, such as Suffolk Park, where there was no pre-existing wall, could be a disaster, because it would increase erosion at neighbouring properties, he said.

HOW SHOULD WE DEAL WITH COASTAL EROSION? Phone 6624 3266 or SMS 0428 264 948

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