What price a colony of breeding platypus is a question Bangalow residents may soon have to ask themselves after research suggests it may cost more than $1 million to replace the broken Bangalow Weir.
Byron Shire Council’s executive manager of community infrastructure Phil Holloway said the weir, which creates the Bangalow Swimming Pool in Byron Creek, has structurally failed.
Removal of the weir entirely would lead to a permanent lowering of upper Byron Creek, potentially threatening the platypus colony, which over the generations the weir has been in place have adapted to the higher water level.
‘The failure occurred due to the structural degradation of the concrete wall along the length of the pool,’ Mr Holloway said.
‘The concrete has failed due to its age and the undermining of the side by tree roots and water.
‘Resolution of this issue is not a simple task. There are complex and conflicting heritage and environmental issues which surround the weir and, as a result, a number of potential options for its future.’
He said in order to fully understand the issues, further investigation into the environmental risks of keeping or removing the weir, including the effects on platypus, is required.
In December 2011, Council resolved to allocate $20,000 to fund an options study, which is currently being carried out by GeoLINK on behalf of Council.
GeoLINK have already completed a structural assessment of the weir and according to Mr Holloway, have estimated the replacement costs of the weir in excess of $1 million.
GeoLINK have also been engaged to complete a report on the ecological impacts and the broader environmental impacts of the sudden and prolonged drop in the creek water level, with particular emphasis on the known platypus colony in the area immediately upstream of the weir.
The ecological report will consider the removal and reconstruction of the weir. The ecological report is planned to be completed in February.
Mr Holloway said a further report will be presented to Council when investigations are completed, including the ecological report, and advice from NSW Fisheries regarding removal or reconstruction of the weir, heritage issues and the platypus assessment.
A fence along the Bangalow Weir was erected in 2011 to ensure safety risks were minimised as much as possible. Council had safety concerns about the water turbulence created around the hole on the western side of the weir.
More recently as the water level has dropped, noted Mr Holloway, the height of fall, plus any dangers relating to swimming in the pool area, are currently very real concerns.
‘Council has a duty of care to the community to make the area safe and a pleasant place for recreation, as well as ensuring the environment is protected,’ he said.
He urged all residents and visitors not to swim or play in the vicinity of the Bangalow Weir.
A community meeting will be held upon Council receiving the GeoLINK report along with any additional updates and resolutions.