The walkway in 2005 soon after it collapsed.
The walkway in 2005 soon after it collapsed.

Protest to fix walkway

JUST agreeing on the right method to reconstruct Byron Bay’s collapsed Lighthouse Road and walkway has taken almost as long as it took to build the ‘coat hanger’ spanning Sydney Harbour, with all of its six million hand-driven rivets.

Or almost three times as long as it took to build New York’s Art Deco Empire State building.

On the fifth anniversary today of the collapse of the road and section of walkway, these are just some of the facts frustrated residents will ponder as they protest over the length of time it has taken to fix the busy road – with still no firm solution in sight.

“Always there are excuses, but never any action,” said resident and this morning’s protest organiser, Allan Cowley.

“There seems to be a lack of will and leadership in wanting to resolve this crisis.

“At this rate we will be celebrating the 7th anniversary of the collapse in 2012.”

The walkway and one lane of Lighthouse Road collapsed after heavy rain in 2005.

Although funds from State Disaster Relief were made available to the council within weeks, approval to rebuild the road is still pending.

Byron Shire Council’s community infrastructure executive manager, Phil Holloway, yesterday said he understood people’s frustration about the delay.

But this brought little comfort to locals, with the council not even planning to call for tenders to fix the damage until ...wait for it ... the end of the year – five-and-a-half years after the collapse.

“From the community’s point of view I can understand why they are asking why it is taking so long, but it’s not an easy thing because of the constraints on the site,” Mr Holloway said.

The road – the only access to Byron’s iconic Cape Byron lighthouse, popular surfing spot The Pass, and the millionaires’ enclave of Wategos – is wedged between private land on one side and national park on the other.

“We also have to keep the road open for traffic,” Mr Holloway said.

“In the past we would have acquired additional land to make it easy for us to do the work.”

The council did go to tender to rebuild the road in early 2008.

However, after only one company submitted a quote the RTA, which must approve all work funded under disaster relief, said the process was not competitive enough and instructed the council to try again with a different plan.

Under the new proposal, the road will cut into the adjoining national park and leave a scar on the hill that will be visible from the ocean.

“We now have a final design, subject to sign-off, which we are hoping will be sent to National Parks this week,” Mr Holloway said.

“We are hoping for a quick turnaround on that and once we have approval we will lodge it with the RTA and then it will go to tender.”

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