Bangalow residents may yet see their historic and popular Bangalow Weir retained as a swimming pool after Byron Shire councillors rejected a staff recommendation to demolish the 90-year-old structure due to safety fears.
Staff had recommended a $60,000 demolition job on most of the old weir after recent severe deterioration sparked safety fears and an assessment pointed out 12 major defects including cracks in the concrete wall.
They also say restoring the weir to ‘swimming pool standards’ would cost over $1 million.
Councillors have instead voted to explore options to remove part of the weir wall to make it safe for swimmers and other users, while retaining elements of the wall for a heritage monument.
Council will also consult the community over options, including a plan to restore the weir, pool and upstream reaches of the creek to a natural environment, before any works start.
In the meantime, the weir will be fenced off and monitored once a week for further deterioration.
‘Whether the Bangalow Weir could be rebuilt as a safe swimming hole was still unknown at this stage and the options study will tell us more,’ council’s community infrastructure head, Phil Holloway said.
Mr Holloway said the assessment found the weir wall collapsed because it was not anchored onto a solid rock foundation, was not reinforced, had poor quality concrete, and the age and unusual shape of the structure.
Staff will now develop a $5,000 brief for a quote on assessing engineering, environmental, social and heritage issues for the works.
Mr Holloway said to remove part of or the entire weir wall would cost around $60,000 and to rebuild to a swimming pool standard with environmental assessments and Fisheries requirements would cost more than $1 million.
Community spokesman David Pont welcomed the move, saying the value of the weir and pool to the locals had been underestimated and warranted further investigation.
Mr Pont, representing Bangalow’s land and rivercare, community alliance and historical society, earlier told councillors the staff report was flawed and its case for demolition was not strong enough.
He said staff used emotive and unscientific language on water quality in the creek to back their claim the pool was unsafe for swimming.
‘That infers that now, all our waterways are off limits,’ Mr Pont said.
‘These are natural waterways and for 90 years people have been swimming here and you won’t find one person in Bangalow who says it’s a risk.
‘All our creeks and rivers will be closed to swimming if this position is carried. It is arguable that the weir and pool do not need to be classified as a “public pool” for the purposes of the upcoming Public Health Regulation, when traditionally Council has maintained the historic structure as a simple creek pool with a commonsense safety approach and people take their own decisions about swimming there.
‘The idea of chlorinating all swimming waters is ludicrous.
Mr Pont said Bangalow groups had already talked to state agencies about design and planning aspects of the weir and pool, including a fish ladder for fish passage, to satisfy ‘legislation, swimmability, safety and reasonably low cost maintenance’.