Controversial plans by the state government to redevelop the Brunswick Heads boat harbour, including dredging and a new marina, is set to be hotly debated tonight (Monday) at a public meeting.
The government this week is pushing ahead with the contentious dredging of the harbour and Brunswick River, as well as the asphalting of the popular southern breakwater wall at the mouth of the river, with no prior consultation of residents.
Brunswick Heads Progress Association’s meeting at 7pm in the town’s memorial hall will look at the latest little-known plan by the Crown Lands division of the primary industries department for a new marina, commercial buildings and large car park for the boat harbour precinct.
It will also discuss the asphalting of the entire length of one of the most popular walkways on the north coast, the southern breakwater wall, which began without notice last week, as well as the dredging plan which is expected to start this week.
Some locals say the combined plans amount to ‘shock and awe’ tactics by the government, given the lack of community consultation.
The Greens say the foreshore development plans are ‘grossly un-democratic’ which have shut out the community, and combined with redevelopment plans for the town’s three public caravan parks, amounting to a perceived ‘take-over’ of the town.
They say the proposed works will fundamentally change the character of the town and destroy the much-loved atmosphere and environment of the small coastal community.
Locals were outraged last week when heavy machinery descended on Torakina beach for the breakwall-bitumen plan, which Crown Lands had proposed and approved itself.
But it appears it’s too late to stop the asphalting of the breakwater pathway, as large crushed gravel was laid on its surface late last week in preparation for its tarring.
Progress association secretary Patricia Warren told Echonetdaily the Crown Lands office at Newcastle were ‘well aware of the public meeting’ and of opposition to the asphalting.
‘Thus it would be an act of utter bastardry to lay materials ahead of the scheduled time, as they were to concentrate only on rock replacement and stabilisation before attending to the crest of the breakwater,’ Ms Warren said.
Locals had suggested to Crown Lands they use an alternative surface, such as compressed hailstone,m so it would look more natural, but an engineer told them maintenance of that type of treatment would be more costly than bitumen.
Byron Shire Council told locals there had been no development application (DA) lodged with council for the work and ‘Crown Land had approved the work itself under State Environmental Planning (Infrastructure SEPP) policy, and thus avoided consulting the community.
As for the breakwater works, a departmental spokesman told Echonetdaily that ‘a comprehensive environmental assessment was completed’ for the project and the department had ‘consulted Roads and Maritime Service, Office of Environment and Heritage, Byron Shire Council and the Brunswick Harbour Consultative Committee which represents river users’.
The Evans Head breakwater wall was asphalted a week ago. The same treatment is due to be being given this week to the southern breakwater on the Brunswick River.
When pressed on the makeup of the so-called ‘consultative committee’, the spokesman said its membership included ’the Department of Primary Industries, Brunswick Heads Cruising Yacht Association, the harbour master, Office of Environment and Heritage, Brunswick Fishermen’s Coop, Byron Shire Council, Roads and Maritime Service, Byron Police and Marine Rescue NSW’.
No residents groups were involved as a result, just government agencies and two select interest groups.
The dredging works, the spokesman said, will cost around $410,000 and will involve dredging around 10,000 cubic metres of clean marine sand from the Brunswick River channel and pumped north to New Brighton Beach ‘where it will be used for beach re-nourishment’.
Some 1,500 cubic metres of other material will be dredged from the boat harbour, pumped into geotextile bags and then taken to landfill.
The breakwall repair and ‘upgrade’ will cost around $230,000 and involves the placement of 200 tonnes of armour rock to fill voids along the face and head of the structure to improve the integrity of the breakwater.
The job, the spokesman said, will take around two weeks and ‘completed by sealing the crest surface with a 2.4 metres wide asphalt path to improve public access’.