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Byron Shire
March 6, 2021

Belongil rocks ‘will increase beach erosion’

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Rock walls proposed to be built at Belongil Beach. Photo Witness King Tides/Flickr
Rock walls proposed to be built at Belongil Beach. Photo Witness King Tides/Flickr

A draft design for Byron Shire Council’s controversial ‘interim’ rock work proposal for erosion-prone Belongil Beach goes on public exhibition from today for three weeks.

Cr Duncan Dey, one of four councillors who voted against the plans, told Echonetdaily that erecting rocks at the end of three streets in Belongil will only further erode the beach.

‘The very fact that the road reserves are stubs left over after cyclonic devastation of allotments would indicate that this project is flawed,’ Cr Dey said.

‘It adds Council to the list of those putting rocks on the beach. The price for having rocks there is loss of that beach, plus some more beach north-westwards where the rock walls end.

‘Maintaining walls built against this rising force will cost more and more money over the years.

‘I regret that the public is contributing both now and most likely into the future. After we pay now, we are most likely bound to do so for ever.

‘The affordable alternative is a planned retreat, where all parties acknowledge there’s a problem and work together to provide alternative housing for residents, plus secure the beach for future generations to use. Beaches are a classic Aussie icon, aren’t they?’ Cr Dey said.

In a letter to council, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) says there is ‘nothing in the assessment that acknowledges the significance of the plan footprint of the proposed rock structure and the substantial impact this might have on the public recreational beach space’.

OEH’s coastal specialist Phil Watson added, that ‘the recreational amenity afforded is already severely compromised’.

The draft design and Review of Environmental Factors (REF) will be displayed together.

Meanwhile, beach scraping at New Brighton beach is set to begin on November 11.

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  1. Yes it will have a severely detrimental effect on this already severely compromised stretch of beach. But as long as the wealthy landowners there are happy…

  2. At this late stage, I’m assuming there is little that we, as responsible residents, can do to stop this lunacy from proceeding.

    The majority of councillors (5 to 4) who are hell bent on destroying Belongil beach once and for all, seem to follow no logic when it comes to this issue. Ecologically wise and cost wise, their preference for rocking up that section makes no sense now and never has. They are not saving the beach, just saving the rocky front gardens of half a dozen properties. And they are fully aware that a rock wall there will erode the beach on either side of that developed section, while completely removing the few remaining pockets of sand at Belongil beach itself.

    The man-made degradation of our beachfront in Byron Bay beggars belief and it mostly comes down to ignorance. It just breaks my heart to watch a council that is supposed to represent, defend and conserve community, social amenity and natural heritage, blatantly, wantonly, and at ratepayers expense, speed up the destruction of our once magnificent coastal playground.

  3. Are Cr Day’s comments against rock wall protection and the need for Belongil residents to retreat credible or not, you decide?
    It is perplexing that Cr Day is not in favour of protecting Council’s own valuable land assets at Manfred St Belongil Beach, when in December 2012 voted in support for a DA (10.2012.407.1) for demolition of existing Lawson St beach front motel and construction of a $35 million odd end value three (3) storey residential flat building comprising 9 apartments be granted consent right on Main Beach.
    This multimillion dollar apartment development featured prominently in last weekend’s press.

    This 7f2 zoned beach front land is no different to Belongil land, except it is currently stabilised and protected by Council’s massive rock protection structure built at Jonson St in the 1970s.

    Main Beach in a rock-less natural state according to recent expert Council reports is even more erosion prone and less naturally stable than Belongil Beach.
    Belongil residenst have complained for decades that the Jonson St stabilising structure is the prime cause of Belongil erosion problems. Three decades of expert reports back this claim.

    Council’s most recent BTM WBM expert report October 2013 stated, “Anthropogenic interference [such as the Jonson St structure] with natural processes that may affect the system locally and/or at adjacent parts of the shoreline that may extend up to kilometres updrift or downdrift.”

    So Cr Day in his current term has both voted to remove – former Mayor Jan Barham’s 2006 resolution to protect the town centre and investigate the Jonson St impact on Belongil Beach – voted not to protect Council’s valuable land at Belongil Beach and strangely voted for the approved multimillion dollar unit development right on Main Beach, go figure?
    Are some ratepayers more equal than others Cr Day?

    PS the attached photo to the report is not of Belongil Beach, it’s the Belongil Creek at King tide a kilometer North of the Belongil residential area.

    • Cr. Dey, again you are misinforming the public on this issue. First and foremost it was the council that first placed rocks on the beach in Byron Bay in front of the car park and the last to place rocks on the beach, most recently in front of the first sun caravan park which council owns. It is those rocks that are causing the erosion at Belongil, All engineers agree on that point as does the courts. As a result of the council placing these aforementioned rocks it now has a court ordered obligation to repair and maintain the sand bags in front of Manfred street, one council owned lot and one private property – all ordered by the court. The council placed sand bags are failing, and most importantly they are polluting the marine environment with fibres, sections of bags and even whole bags which I have photographed floating in the sea. Furthermore they are very costly to maintain. Rocks are the logical alternative, but alas logic and truth appear to be low on your agenda.

  4. Rock walls can work very well, as is evident at Lennox Head, and the beach is still there. There are many other intelligent options. Undersea groins lying perpendicular to the coast can act as passive natural sand harvesters. They slow current, so sand drops to floor and is washed up to beach, then blown up into dunes. Also material placed to act as a reef at the point of wave breaking in big storms will break the destructive force of the waves, while adding greatly to marine life and good surfing conditions. Both are Passive and maintenance free long term solutions. No sand scraping needed. The wreck is a small example of this in action, look at the sand collected near there, and the vibrant sea life and good waves. there is only around 1 % of our shire’s coastline that needs this protection, most can be left to work out itself. But this is a precious, vital and important 1% for our whole town and deserves to be looked after intelligently. by the whole community. It is not just Belongil residents problem..we are all in this together. This small strip is not the place to effect planned retreat…I am very wary of consultants who earn large fees warning of the imminent dangers, for it plays into their interests to keep everyone fearful and not to make simple solutions too available. we have had some terrible advice here in the past. Great opportunities also exist to make this a showcase of intelligent environmental cooperation.

  5. The entire beachfront in Byron Bay needs to be looked at as a whole – Main and Belongil Beach – the complete arc of the bay scalloped out behind the cape.
    Each man-made interjection of rocks scours and breaks up the rest of the beachfront.
    Rock walls are the most damaging human response to storm events and rising tides. They destroy the entire dunal bulwark much more rapidly than any other defensive proposal. And there are reams of scientific reports that back that up.
    Unless there is some wholistic long term approach to the current man-made mess that is now Byron Bay, there is no hope for the survival of our once world famous beach. Knee jerk, short term proposals only exacerbate the problems we are facing.
    The future for the area, in terms of business opportunities and recreational enjoyment, looks very bleak indeed. I despair for our inadequate responses and thoughtless destruction of a once unique bay.
    Where are our big thinkers? There is no-one looking beyond next week and the next bank withdrawal.

  6. Regardless of how we argue about this or not. The fact is we cannot control the ocean… We never could.
    It’s going to rise and erode the dunes whether we put rock’s there or not… if someone can afford to build a crappy house with water front view’s and then holiday let them for ridiculous prices , then they can afford to buy another house.
    It should be a lesson to the wealthy more then anything.
    You might slow it down but your not gonna stop it.
    It’s just the way it is.
    Plus it make wind barriers for me 🙂

  7. Hi,
    Over the past 10 years I have watched with interest the deterioration of Belongil Beach and the angst it has caused.
    Over this whole period of time we have had a system that could have alleviated all the wasted monies spent and put this problem away years ago.
    A very similar system has been executed on the East Coast of South Africa and is still effective 35 years later with miniscual maintenance cost.

    Please see http://www.australiancoastalwalls.com.au
    Manly Hydraulic Laboatories ( 60 years in existence), highly reputable and a division of Public Works NSW Govt gave the product excellent test results and yet the Byron Shire find this system too irrelevant to consider.
    The product is eco and user friendly and aesthetically attractive.
    It makes One wonder.


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