Byron’s world-renowned surfing beaches and related ‘tourist activities’ are at risk owing to Byron Shire Council’s relentless push to create plans that favour coastal protection structures, a state government department warned again recently.
But the warning appears to have made no difference to council’s right-wing controlling faction, who again barrelled through with yet another motion to continue on the path of overturning the planned retreat policy in favour of ‘protection works’.
Structures such as rock walls are known to erode beaches over time.
At last Thursday’s council meeting, the controlling faction ignored staff recommendations that sought clarification over a newly announced coastal management framework.
Instead, Cr Sol Ibrahim again produced a last-minute lengthy motion – written in the lunch break – which aims to continue the preparation of a Coastal Hazard Management Study Byron Bay Embayment.
The project is led by consultants Water Research Laboratory (WRL), who the left-leaning councillors point out are employed to engineer and build coastal protection works and therefore are potentially biased against planned retreat as an option.
Cr Ibrahim’s fellow councillors Woods, Hunter, Cubis and Greens turncoat Wanchap all voted without explanation or debate for his motion.
The plans have been continually dogged by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), who say the cost benefit analysis (CBA) of WRL’s plans is inadequate and, if done correctly, could demonstrate that planned retreat is the most cost-effective outcome.
The Echo understands that OEH will ultimately decide whether to accept Council’s CZMP plans, which will then be gazetted by the minister.
A recent meeting held on the Gold Coast with OEH, WRL and Byron Shire Council staff thrashed out the problems raised by OEH, with WRL accepting the issues raised.
The latest cost to ratepayers in redrafting these issues is $13,500, and comes on top of similar cost blowouts from last year.
The OEH had previously offered to prepare council’s cost benefit analysis for free.
The report from the meeting notes OEH uncertainty surrounding major cost components and called on WRL to explore within its cost benefit analysis the ‘engineering options, retreat and an adaptive strategy’.
It was acknowledged that sand nourishment, which is replenishing the expected loss of beach sand owing to rock wall type structures, is a ‘critically sensitive component.’
Serious doubts expressed by OEH
Within the meeting’s minutes it reads, ‘OEH expresses serious doubts about feasibility of the… options proposed.’
It’s a position supported by legislation – OEH noted that within the Coastal Protection Act 1979, ‘CZMPs are to make provision to protecting and preserving beach amenity and managing associated impacts for proposed construction of protection works.’