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Byron Shire
May 16, 2021

Sucking sand from Tallow to Belongil

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Re the plans to suck sand from Tallow to Belongil

How did we get from simply replacing 100 metres of geo bags that are past their use-by date with rocks, to suddenly destroying one beach to build up another one?

It was made very clear to all of us by UNSW, Water Research Laboratory who are considered to be the most respected and highly revered in the industry that the change from geo bags to rocks would make very little difference, if any at all, to the sand or lack of sand on the 100m2 of land in front of them.

This is just 100m2 on a beach that already has had a kilometre of rock or hard barriers of some kind for decades.

We are simply considering replacing these bags with rocks that won’t require renewing after each storm event as the bags do now.

Sand obviously hasn’t been needed since geo bags and rocks have been in place for some 15 years and we still have a beach.   Under the CZMP landowners will be required to pay a levy to contribute towards the ongoing maintenance and nourishment of the beach should it be needed.

We have two options – retreat or defend. To retreat means that we could see a dozen or so homes dangling from a cliff with all of their contents, building materials, asbestos etc being added to waste in our oceans or the alternative relocating dozens of homes to another site in the hills or otherwise. Many of these property owners will require compensation since they were constructed before 1988. At $2 milllion to $3 million each compensation could be a very costly option.

The cost of ‘abandoning/retreating’ could run into the multi-millions when considering litigation from owners who have been ordered to remove their protective rock walls, which will stretch well into the next decade. Is the public purse ready to fund the cost of that?

I believe it is in the best interests of the whole community to find a way of ‘managing’ our shore line that does not entail ‘abandoning’ a whole suburb and subsequently endangering the township of Byron should a breach occur at the Manfred St site. We have been warned this is a distinct possibility. It has breached at that site before.

The decision to ‘defend’ with geo bags was made by resolution of the previous council hence the need to continually replace geo bags regardless of the enormous costs associated with that.

The cost of replacing the bags with rocks at the Manfred St site is probably going to be around the $1.2 million minus the $300,000 being paid by the affected landowners, but each time the bags are washed away it costs some $400,000 to replace.

Maintenance year after year is a cost often not factored in the hysteria that surrounds this issue. Last report put maintenance and replacement costs at approximately $2 million spent over the past 15 years. If that cost were to be added to the mix it is ridiculous to say the one-off cost of rock, which has little or no maintenance requirements, is exorbitant.

Maybe it is time for a ‘critical conversation’ at the Community Centre to clarify with the community just what the true facts are regarding replacing geo bags with rocks. Both sides can bring in their experts and we will have a truly balanced debate.

Byron Shire councillor Rose Wanchap

Editor’s note: The answer to Cr Wanchap’s rhetorical question at the top of this letter is on the Byron Shire Council’s own website, on a page entitled Coastal Hazard Management Study for the Byron Bay Embayment, in a report from a council stakeholder workshop held on January 28, 2015.

 


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