Recommendations by Byron Shire Council staff to remove the historic Bangalow weir on Byron Creek have riled residents who say their wishes to restore the structure have been ignored.
The weir’s fate is due to be discussed at the upcoming Council meeting on Thursday October 31.
‘We are totally gobsmacked at this idea!’ said Bangalow Weir Group representative, Terry Bleakley. ‘After having so many meetings with Council, to have staff point blank deny the fact that our community simply does not want the weir wall removed, not to mention the reality of the cost of demolition, is incredible.
‘As we understood Council was strapped for cash, our team applied for funding under the Community Building Partnerships program, which would fund the repair and stabilisation of the weir.’ He says the outcome will not be known until December.
‘We’ve managed to get outside contributions to fund a massive co-operative wetland project completed in the creekside park, plus get some great signs made. At no cost to Council, Baulderstone [construction company] freely contributed labour and equipment to construct a 110-metre path between the wetland and the creek, as well as contributing 14 two-tonne rocks to form rock circles for the benefit of the community. A local engineer has volunteered yet another concept plan to repair the weir wall at considerable savings. And now we’ve applied for government funding to restore the weir. What’s Council done? Four reports over several years.’ Mr Bleakley says Council’s consultants, WBM, estimated earlier this year that removal costs would be ‘around $115,000’.
‘The Bangalow Weir Group’s highly credentialled civil engineer donated a concept plan to repair and stabilise the weir wall at a construction cost of less than $100,000. This was presented to Council for its consideration on July 3, 2013. Now the latest staff report – the fourth Council has received on the topic in recent years – says there’s no money to pay to fix the wall, but there might be $60,000 in a “community infrastructure maintenance” program to get rid of it. But – sorry – that wouldn’t cover repair of the wall.’
But Council’s executive manager of infrastructure Phil Holloway says the recommendation to remove the weir was ‘based on a responsible decision that Council does not currently have the funds to repair the wall and retain the weir.’
‘While we appreciate the work undertaken by the community on the concept plan, further detail is required to formalise a design, approvals and cost estimate. The final estimated costs are unknown but are expected to well exceed the $87,000 proposed by the community. Funding for the weir reconstruction would also need to be reallocated from other Council infrastructure programs.’ Mr Holloway said the recommendation to Council was a working compromise and takes into consideration the community, heritage, environment and funding.
‘It would be a balance between keeping the heritage aspects, restoring the creek back to its natural environment, and within a responsible budget,’ he said.