The group Positive Change for Marine Life has discontinued its court challenge to the Belongil rock wall currently being constructed by Byron Shire Council.
Sue Higginson for the EDO (Environmental Defenders Office), which handled the case, said that as the judge had refused to issue an injunction to prevent the wall’s construction there was little point in proceeding with the case.
Ms Higginson said it could be ‘12 months from now’ before a decision was handed down on the legitimacy of the wall’s construction, by which time it would be ‘well and truly built’.
In a formal statement the EDO said, ‘The proceedings were discontinued last Friday on the agreement of all parties.
‘[The applicant] Positive Change for Marine Life considered that the utility in continuing the proceedings without the interim injunction was questionable.
‘The community group was seeking to prevent the wall from being constructed in the first place on the basis that it is likely that the rock wall will have a significant affect on the environment.
‘Had the community group been successful in this contest at a final court hearing a full and comprehensive environmental impact statement would have been required and council would have to make its decision about the wall based on that assessment.
‘But given the wall will be built by the time that contest is over, the only solution would be to knock the unlawful wall down.
‘In the past rock walls have been constructed at Belongil and the legality of them [is] questionable but they still remain,’ the EDO statement read.
Environment argument disputed
But Belongil resident John Vaughan has disputed the argument that the wall will cause environmental damage, claiming previous assessments conducted by the council argued this would not be the case.
‘What is clear is that lengthy independent studies and reports undertaken by Byron Shire Council in 2001, 2011 and 2013/2014 show that there were no or unlikely to be any “adverse environmental impacts and social impacts”, which was the subject of the court challenge, and it is self evident from these reports that the interim rock wall was not “ dubiously planned”,’ he told Echonetdaily.
Mr Vaughan also argued that the group was running out of money to fund the campaign, based on the current state of a fundraising campaign on the website planetfunder.org.
But Ms Higginson said that had the court case gone ahead she was confident it could have been fully funded.
‘The issue of community affordability is not relevant to this case, as much of the effort has relied on pro-bono support of senior barristers and the community has a history of rallying around to raise funding in cases such as this.’
She added that the comments showed ‘an absence of understanding of how public interest law works.’
Justice Craig’s reasons for not granting the urgent injunction are due to be published today.