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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

‘Gang of Five’ heaving away at rock walls

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What I am struggling to understand is that if protecting the Belongil sand spit is unquestionably good for all of us living here in the Byron Shire, why has the so-called ‘Gang of Five’ gone to such incredible lengths to prevent the community having a collaboratively reasonable and evidence-led discussion on the subject?
Especially when there is a region-wide Coastal Zone Management Plan now less than 12 months away, why was it so important to exclude the wider community in such a significant financial and environmental decision and get the whole thing done in such a rush?
The bags have been sitting there for over a decade, they can comfortably sit there for another 12 months.
It’s almost if as though they knew we wouldn’t agree with the idea and closed the community out of the conversation before it had a chance to really talk about it properly.
Kinda like a bully, or a bad marriage.
Thankfully there is always the option for divorce.
Timothy J. Winton-Brown, Brunswick Heads

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  1. Howdy Timothy,
    Its a pity that you didn’t take part in the 18 year process, four CZMP versions and numerous public forums and the 12 public exhibitions of CZMP documents where public consultation submissions were called for.
    I can say, I am on public record to submitting to each call. Why you missed the opportunity to voice your opinion during these processes ? I cannot say. But what I can say!
    You and your team of supporters seem to think you have a ‘monopoly on being right’.
    Let me inform you there are others in our wonderful broad, eclectic, freethinking community that with respect, differ in opinion. The great gift of our planning system is that it has a ‘process of public scrutiny’ in place. If you read back issues of the Echo over the last 4 years, Duncan Dey through the media informed the broader community of each stage of the Interim rock wall at each step in the process.
    The five councillors are supporting their segment of the community and I for one welcome their balanced and staunch support in the face of such vitriolic, malicious and splenetic opposition to a valid and submission recorded supported stance.
    Christine Ahern

    • Please, some facts would be welcome. Where was the public consultation on the rock wall decision? Where is the public scrutiny you referred to? There is no “supported stance” because the CZMP is not finished and there has been no public exhibition of it so no stance has been taken yet.
      The Belongil rock wall is not the CZMP — it is being done outside the CZMP — so no one can have input except the Belongil landowners. If you are one of those then maybe that is what you are referring to as community consultation. But it is not a private beach so more than those people have the right to have input.

      The last CZMP was supported by a Coastal Committee that had community representatives on it – despite this it was scuttled for no good reason. This latest one had no such guiding committee. Your notion of the ‘process of public scrutiny’ does not exist here. If it is such a good idea to build a rock wall, they should throw it open to the public for comment. Then a true planning process has been followed and transparency honoured.

  2. And whilst all of these rock wall processes have been occurring no-one has tackled the inevitability of climate change; eg. rising sea levels and the consequent effects of same on beaches and properties. There is not even time to wait for the Coastal Protection Report before pressing ahead with the placement of rocks.

    Perhaps it is time for some patience and prepare for the potential sink holes that will occur around properties built too close to the sea. Water travels and sand /cement is no guarantee against this possibility. At what stage in the process will the rate-payers be included to raise the issues of climate change and will they have to pay for the possible sink holes that shall appear on private properties? Rocks are just so last century! Time to move in tempo with the times.

    • Hi dj, Reading your letter reminds me of the saying ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.’ Not sure what the Coastal Protection Report is but within the Byron Shire CZMP documents the consultants most certainly encompass climate change parameters and predicted rising sea levels over the next 100 years.
      Sinkholes ‘are common where the rock below the land surface is limestone, carbonate rock, salt beds, or rocks that can naturally be dissolved by groundwater circulating through them.’ Your stance appears to be a political one rather than an informed one about the Belongil .

  3. Haha. I can’t wait to see those houses sink into the ocean then people can point the finger and nodding sagely say to the councilors “I told you so” and demand a refund of their wasted rates. The idea of running a pumping station, pipeline and ancilay infrastructure to divert sand from one end of the coast to the other would have to be the height of imbecility unparalled since the days of King Canute.

  4. Greetings Christine. Read the story in Echonetdaily today. Gosford Council was locked into a decade of legal issues concerning a house that fell into the sea when rock walls were placed around units that were constructed nearby. The damage was legally proven to be directly related to the erection of the rock-walls. This case also addressed the changes on coastal zones due to climate change.

    I do believe that Cr. Duncan Dey is doing a remarkable job on council. I don’t label myself. My greater concern is addressing climate change with integrity and the health of the environment and justice for future generations.

    • Hey dj, Yes read the article. Though the article seems to have been removed from the edition. I pointed out that interestingly, the Gosford Council gazetted CZMP has additional seawalls proposed as management options and that the Clarence River Council has recently abandoned its Planned Retreat Policy in favour of other management strategies.

      The broader public may wonder if you and your elected supporters condone comments made by Mike in reply.
      ‘I can’t wait to see those houses sink into the ocean’ it smacks of zealotry and callousness. ‘Those houses’ are the homes of everyday people with livelihoods, families and loans.
      Belongil suburb contributes substantial economic benefit to the shire in tourism, rates and land taxes. It is concerning that the debate on coastal management issues has debased to such cold heartedness and dubious rhetoric.

  5. As a resident and ratepayer for over 32 years I well remember the sensible Planned Retreat policy in 1988. It’s not the responsibility of long-suffering ratepayers if people have chosen to ignore that policy and undertake huge additions to properties which will make them difficult to move.

    Despite all that has gone on since1988, the question why all the rush and secrecy to build rock walls before the CZMP is completed needs to be answered. Until the CZMP is complete and placed on public exhibition it cannot be claimed there is any community support for rock walls. In fact the opposite appears to be the case.

    Recent legal decisions show councils risk liability if people’s homes are destroyed as a direct result of the effects of rock walls on neighbouring properties.

    All ratepayers will be paying for this folly while other infrastructure and our roads are falling apart.

  6. Dj faith and Louise I applaud your response!
    As a resident and ratepayer I too feel angered by the “rushed” and “closed doors” decision to build the rock walls.
    As a resident and ratepayer I have numerously announced that “I will not pay my rates in protest of the rock wall decision”.
    As a traditional Aboriginal woman who has thousands of years connection to Cavanbah (Byron Bay) I am now on the path of NO rate payments in the future……
    I am hoping that in ten years you will be reading the success of my protest.
    Wish me luck!

  7. Greetings all and great to hear from you Delta. Blessings to the ancient earth-carers.

    Firstly, I always applaud passion for the integrity of the environment and social justice. Therefore, I do not wish to see anyone suffer or indeed by subjected to hostility (eg. happy your house fell into the sea!)

    My main concern is working for a new paradigm that addresses the dire effects of Climate change. This is not a simple statement as the literature abounds with all sorts of information which is most distressing. Rather than feel disempowered I believe that we must recognise how rapidly we must evolve as humans in order to fully comprehend and understand the ecological consequences of our actions. We are learning that even ‘experts’ are fallible.

    Furthermore, I do believe that we must uphold the principles of democracy and debate with reason and genuine sharing of concerns.

    Thus said I do have some concerns which I will share. I am not convinced that rocks uphold ecological integrity. I do not believe that rate-payers should pay for fickle interim actions.

    Concerning developing on a primary sand dune so close to the sea it must be noted that that owners were warned that the house be removed when the beach scarp came within 50 metres. Anyone building after 1988 got a s149 certificate from Council alerting them to the hazard (thus taking responsibility off Government).

    The nub of this is that LEGAL backing supports this warning. If we respect the rule of law even the ‘ordinary person’ could be accused of being reckless when dismissing such information. As such, it would indicate that the initial contract was clear in this legality and development rules have been violated. This would be understood by any rate-payer. If this position has been over-turned by Appeal then the rate-payers have the democratic right, I would argue, to withhold rates. Much climate change has happened since 1988. This is not the concern of a few rate-payers but the whole community of caring rate-payers. We must not forget this.

    It really is quite remarkable that such development was approved (if it was) when such a clear legal statement existed!

    Of course there will always be politics and modern political systems work hard to ‘bend the rules’ it would seem, but at the end of the day the wider public and ecological good must ascend in democratic debate if we are move forward with vision and integrity.

    Therefore, express our rights and indignation in accordance with what is left of our claimed democratic structures. It could be all that is left! Lets hope not. Allow Paradise to bloom again. Onwards to harmony for all.

  8. ‘Let the buyer beware’. If you purchased on the spit before the late 1970s without knowledge of the hazard, then, fair enough, the government should buy you out (for a reasonable price given the hazard). But if you purchased knowing the risk, then you can only put your hand out and ask for public assistance, unless are not placed in financial hardship by your mistake.


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