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Byron Shire
February 27, 2021

Byron’s long history of rock walls

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Local low income residents in Byron Bay are the human koalas of our Shire. They too have lost much of their habitat. We need affordable housing now, not in three years, or five years, or ten. Now.

Commenting on Cr Duncan Dey’s trip to the beach two weeks ago: I can see the rose-tinted glasses are firmly on here but allow me to disturb the nirvana and make a similar point to Mary Gardner’s article in last week’s paper. The point is that it’s actually very hard to find an unspoilt ‘swamp’ or untouched beach anywhere in Byron Shire and certainly not Tyagarah as you allude to.

The fact is that the beaches along the Bay of Byron are simply not a good example of the pristine. If anything, they were a hive of industrial activity from 1870 onwards until the mid-1980s when tourism arrived to save the town after the closure of the meatworks. Can I suggest you firstly read your own council’s Heritage Study before waxing lyrical hogwash?

The reality is that up until the closure of Walkers Meatworks in 1984, the beaches in Byron Shire were a vital component of the very significant industrial endeavours that made up the Byron Shire. All that intensive industry along all our beaches for over 100 years and not a white shoe in sight; think about that as you sit in front of Council’s rocks that protect Wategos or the rock works that stabilise Main Beach and all that lies beyond.

On your analysis, a beach is not a beach if it has any protection works such as revetment walls or groynes. So how would you classify some of the most iconic beaches in Australia – Bondi Beach, Manly Beach and Wategos – all protected by historic rock works?

On local coastal processes, unlike some minds, Byron’s beaches are not part of a closed system. Byron’s beaches do not rely on a sand dune behind for their replenishment and existence as you simplistically suggest. Local beach sand has a well-documented, long northward journey to the Gold Coast, Stradbroke, Morton and finally Fraser, the biggest sand island in the world. Sand long delayed by the Jonson Street rock works arrives later on Belongil Beach, alas often too late to replenish before the next storm. Solutions are there – closed minds won’t find them.

John Vaughan, Belongil Beach


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  1. The human industrial history of the past few hundred years in the Byron Shire is not a recommendation for sound ecological management in the 21st century. The legal permission to build or develop in a high erosion zone or a floodplain or on acid sulphate soils does not mean that these ecological processes on land or at sea will simply stop and ensure the safety of human infrastructure and lives. On a sand spit with water on all sides but one, planned retreat is actually a proactive option.

    The significance of wetlands and their restoration and preservation is not so much about the age of standing trees but the integrity of the ecological processes they embody and facilitate. Right now, the town of Byron Bay’ needs to address the hazards of un-managed storm water, sea level rise and climate change. Good water sensitive design works, flood management and revitalization of the Belongil Estuary and Spit as well as the Cumbebin wetlands will surely play a large part in the future management of the entire town as well as marine wildlife (including fish). The question is when will we begin to understand and act on the big picture?


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