It is deeply distressing to read the extent of the misrepresentation and half truths that are being promoted on this topic. I have lived in this shire for a long time, and if I didn’t know better, I would also be alarmed by the claims being made about Belongil.
However, I have had the benefit of nearly three years as a councillor studying this issue and speaking directly with leading coastal engineers.
The Manfred Street rock revetment is a replacement of an existing hard protection wall made from polypropylene (plastic). This wall has been repaired and replaced several times over the past 15 years, including by the Greens-majority council of Jan Barham.
The cost so far for these so called ‘temporary’ sand bags is over $2.2 million! An unknown number of massive plastic geobags have washed into our bay after each big storm, the last in 2013.
Why isn’t Positive Change for Marine Life concerned by this? I am very concerned about it. The simple fact is that the erosion effects of rock walls are no different to sandbags.
Whatever sand loss has occurred at Manfred Street due to the sandbags will not be made any worse by a rock wall.
The new rock wall is going exactly where the old sand bag wall is now. Cr Jan Barham is on record in 2000 supporting a rock wall at Manfred St following a warning from expert engineers that a sand bag wall would constantly fail.
Our council is under a court order dating back to 2000 requiring us to maintain protection works at this site, including in front of one private property.
There is not a single council document that has formally adopted planned retreat.
The CZMP of 2012 which recommended planned retreat was withdrawn by none other than Jan Barham and her council.
This document was created with very poor public consultation. If you support democracy and public involvement, then you must respect opposing views. There has never been a referendum on planned retreat, nor has there ever been a genuine plan issued by its supporters.
Even if council formally adopted planned retreat, over a dozen houses would have to be gradually dismantled, as well as electricity, water and sewer infrastructure.
All this material must pass through a narrow road, at the intersection of Manfred St. If this intersection is not maintained, the only way to remove the houses and infrastructure is via the beach.
It will be many years before half the houses are dismantled, and more years until the other half receive the compensation they are entitled to.
Like it or not, a protection wall at Manfred St is here for a long time. The question is; are we prepared to keep repairing it and watch helplessly as plastic bags pollute our bay?
The beach at Belongil is not ruined. I go there regularly with family and friends as do hundreds each week.
The Manfred St protection works are situated between a kilometre of rock walls that have been there for 15 years.
The Belongil locals firmly believe that the erosion has been caused by the Jonson Street rock wall. This claim is yet to be resolved in court.
However, their rock walls have not affected anyone down drift because there aren’t any more homes past theirs.
The endangered birds at the creek mouth are still there. There has not been any negative impact on flora or fauna.
The Manfred Street DA has undergone all required environmental assessments and received concurrence from the relevant authorities.
As for the so called sand pumping, this is a recommendation from the Office of Environment and Heritage. Apart from its inclusion as a possible strategy to enhance the beach, there has been absolutely no more consideration given to it.
Personally, I am very sceptical about it, and I have certainly never stated support for it. It’s easy to bring concerned residents together for a rally if you tell them our beaches are about to be destroyed. But this is just not true.
There will be ample opportunity for the whole community to debate the pros and cons of planned retreat vs protection early next year when the Draft CZMP is released.
Cr Sol Ibrahim, Byron Bay