More than a year after the Bangalow Community looked at options to rescue its rapidly disintegrating weir, no action has been taken.
A report to Byron Shire Council by Geolink, saying replacement of the weir would cost $1million, was greeted with derision at a public meeting in February last year after the meeting heard from a local engineer, Tony Baggio, who said that the job could be done for less than $100,000.
At its most recent meeting on March 13, Council unanimously voted down a staff recommendation to demolish the weir, following the delivery of yet another report, this time by WBM, which put the cost of a minimal fix at around $290,000.
Instead, Council supported a move by Cr Rose Wanchap that a further public meeting be held in Bangalow to put the options to the community.
Several Bangalow community groups will stage the community forum on Monday, April 8, from 6 to 8pm at St Kevin’s Church Hall, Deacon Street, to examine WBM’s proposed options. MC will be local journalist Mick O’Regan.
None of the options comes cheaply – even demolishing the weir would cost more than $100,000 – and price will obviously also come into Council’s ultimate consideration.
Meeting co-organiser Christobel Munson of Bangalow Community Alliance said the purpose of the meeting was ‘to allow the community to understand the four options that the consultants are proposing to Council’.
Ms Munson added that she was concerned the options had been put up for a council vote before the community had a chance to hear from them.
‘We were only informed about two days before the council meeting and we didn’t get the chance to have our say. It did feel like some of the council staff were trying to “expedite” things,’ she told Echonetdaily.
‘At the end of the meeting last year we asked the council to share its new report with the community before enacting any recommendations. Probably Mick will get a show of hands to see which the community most prefers,’ she said.
‘We also wanted the new councillors to fully understand the picture before they voted because it felt like it was being pushed through on March 13.
‘The community is concerned that there are those inside Council who would just like the whole thing to wash away in a flood and then they won’t have a problem.’
The WBM report, which can be viewed on Council’s website, puts a dollar cost to the four options it proposes. Any new any new structure must also legally include a fishway, which adds to the cost.
– Weir removal (a weir/water height of zero) and making the area safe – the ‘back to nature’ option – would cost $115,000.
– Repairing the weir to a height of 0.9 metres (just below the concrete floor of the kids’ pool) with a rock fishway, would carry a possible cost of $290,000. Of that, about $200,000 would be in materials; the rest the cost of geotechnical investigation and design, approvals and project management.
– Repairing it to a height of 1.2m, plus rock weir and fishway, would cost around $320,000, or more if in concrete.
– Raising the weir wall to the original height of 1.5m would cost around $415,000.
Ms Munson acknowledges there is far from unanimity, even among the Bangalow community, about the what the future of the weir should be. But everyone at last year’s meeting agreed that something must be done about it.
‘I think people are realistic. They realise it may not be able to stay the way it was but they would like understand the options and to make an informed decision and hear what the fundraising options are,’ she said.
‘We’ve tried really hard to work with Council for a sensible outcome, rather than it only be one viewpoint.
‘A lot of people have a very soft spot for the Weir. Before people had their own swimming pools a lot of people learnt to swim there going back 50 years. It’s lovely, old fashioned park and a nice gentle play area.
‘At the moment there’s a hideous fence around it.’