A vibrant meeting of some 80 Bangalow residents last night heard a range of options for dealing with the town’s damaged 90-year-old weir and pool, including perspectives from environment, heritage and governance experts.
A short film by Terry Bleakley highlighted the pool’s heritage value and featured interviews with long-term Bangalow residents, including 90-year-old Russel Blanch who learned to swim there at age six.
Environmentalist and Bangalow Landcare member Mark Free said the jury was out on whether the presence of the weir had a negative impact on the creek’s platypus population but Fisheries representative Matthew Gordos said that if the weir was to be rebuilt, a fishway would now need to be included to comply with NSW legislation. The additional cost of this he estimated to be anything from $100,000 to $500,000.
Council’s neglect of the pool over many years was a theme that was raised a number of times, with Cr Morrissey admitting that he couldn’t recall when the meagre $5,000 annual council grant for maintenance had been phased out. Certainly it was well before the dramatic collapse of the weir last year.
But the spokesperson who brought the meeting to a rousing cheer was highly experienced local structural engineer Tony Baggio. Mr Baggio designed a cost-effective bridge for Helen Street, South Golden Beach. He dismissed the claims of council’s initial report that the weir needed to be demolished and that the cost of replacing it was close to $1 million.
He said the engineers that council had engaged were ‘environmental engineers, not structural engineers’ and as such were not qualified to comment on either the safety of the structure or the cost and viability of its removal.
Mr Baggio told the meeting he had drawn up a plan to repair the existing weir that would cost less than $50,000. He then demonstrated a straightforward plan to repair the existing weir using rock-filled wire baskets, keeping the broken weir wall as formwork to hold the concrete poured on a gradient back from the peak. A layer of swimming pool shotcrete (or gunnite) covering the whole surface would protect people from coming into contact with the wire cages
Although the plan did not include the construction of a fishway, Mr Gordos said that it was not incompatible with one. He added that there was a range of state government options available for funding fishways.
A member of the meeting also commented that a portion of the $600,000 developer contributions earmarked for Bangalow could be directed towards the project.
The meeting concluded on a high note with a comprehensive motion supporting the retention and repair of the Bangalow weir and pool, which was passed unanimously.
Resolution: That this meeting of members of the Bangalow community recognises the significance of the Bangalow pool and weir to the history, environment and social fabric of Bangalow, as a highly valued piece of recreational social infrastructure, especially for the youth of our community.
Furthermore the meeting draws specific attention to the failure of Byron Shire Council to adequately maintain the weir and pool despite clear warnings as to the necessity of such maintenance.
Consequently this meeting demands:
Firstly that no changes are made to the weir, specifically no removal or demolition.
Secondly that all feasible engineering options be considered for the repair of the weir and pool and the construction of the obligatory fishway under relevant NSW legislation.
Thirdly that any Byron Shire Council-commissioned study be made public and fully open to community scrutiny.
Fourthly that the meeting requests that Byron Shire Council’s engineering staff and consultants be available to present their case regarding proposals for the pool and weir at a public meeting in Bangalow at a future date.
The meeting notes the availability of NSW government grants to assist with the costs of fishway construction and urges Byron Shire Council to investigate fully all such financial options.
It is further noted that local engineer Tony Baggio has provided an initial proposal for the repair of the weir and pool and that Byron Shire Council enter into discussions with Mr Baggio regarding his design and cost estimates.