Sol Ibrahim, Byron Shire councillor
The issue of our beachfront is far too important for inaccuracies and half truths. Firstly, planned retreat is not a 25 year old policy.
The 1988 LEP requires coastal issues to be ‘considered’ when a DA is applied in the Belongil residential (7) zone. The planned retreat policy has never been subjected to a full public consultation, something which is far overdue. The resolution supported by a majority of councillors at the February 14 meeting relates solely to public roads and beach access.
Whatever the state of the beach today, it was the previous council that approved the construction of the Geo Bag walls. All specialist engineers agree that the effect on the beach is the same whether the protection works are sand bags or rocks. The previous council had no plan to remove these ‘temporary’ walls, and in fact paid for a detailed engineering report for their repair, for an estimated cost of $460,000.
Similarly, the council installed protection works at Jonson Street are also due to be upgraded to protect the foreshore parks, car park, swimming pool, surf club and the CBD. Private Belongil landowners already have rock protection works in place. New state laws allow property owners to undertake immediate temporary protection works without local government approval, and subsequently apply for permanent works directly to the state government.
We have no issue with maintaining public roads that are closed as a result of extreme weather events in Wilsons Creek. Why then is it any different at Belongil, or any of our other coastal communities? Yes, cost is an issue, but the principle should not be. I always believed that freedom of expression, consultation, and the democratic process were ideals held highly by the Greens. Undermining these principles is the real madness in this debate.