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May 24, 2022

Brunswick Heads locals’ plea to ban asphalt on walkway ignored

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The popular walkway along the Brunswick Heads river's southern breakwater  has been prepared to be asphalted.
The popular walkway along the Brunswick Heads river’s southern breakwater has been prepared to be asphalted.

Luis Feliu

An appeal by Brunswick Heads residents to the state government not to asphalt the entire length of a popular walkway on the river breakwall has been ignored.

A meeting held last week by the Brunswick Heads Progress Association (BHPA) to debate the controversial issue, as well as the proposed dredging of the town’s boat harbour and river,  called on the department of primary industries  to consider alternative surface materials for the walkway at the southern breakwall.

The meeting, attended by more than  100 locals, also called on the government to consult residents in future on plans to redevelop the marina precinct in the town, the dredging and other contentious proposals in the pipeline.

But only a minor change to the breakwall walkway will be made: a one-metre strip will be left natural sand, so children and surfers can walk barefoot from the Torakina carpark to the beach.

A departmental spokesman told Echonetdaily the asphalt walkway on the crest of the rock breakwall will be 2.4 metres wide and the strip of natural sand will be around a metre wide up to the vegetated fence line ‘to provide people with a choice to access the beach’.

The spokesman said one of the reasons asphalt was chosen for the pathway was ‘to provide a smooth surface to improve access for people of all ages and those with mobility impairment’.

But BHPA president Leone Bolt said that ’once again the wishes of the community have been ignored’ on the issue as the ‘rest of the entire breakwall will be asphalt’.

Ms Bolt told Echonetdaily that other concessions made by the Lands division of the department was that the dredging pipes to carry out the dredge spoil frpm the harbour would ‘now go behind Harry’s Hill and then onto New Brighton Beach which should protect  endangered nesting birds on the hill’.

She said that the department would now also allow a resident representative to attend all future meetings on the boat harbour redevelopment master pan.

In its response to the progress association, the department’s manager for coastal infrastructure,  Garry Clarke, said the breakwater repair works were being carried out under the NSW government’s Coastal Infrastructure Program ‘which aims to rebuild and repair maritime assets that have been subject to deterioration and damage’.

Mr Clarke said ‘this is for the safety and convenience of both maritime users and land-based recreational activities’.

‘Breakwaters and training walls are highly valued by the community with many constructed to facilitate community access. The walls are popular for a range of recreational activities including walking, jogging, cycling, sight-seeing and fishing.’ he said.

‘Over recent years, communities along the NSW coast have requested that DPI – Lands consider upgrading the crest surfaces of breakwaters and training walls to provide smooth surfaces to allow for easier mobility and access, particularly for the elderly and disabled.

‘Sealed surfaces have been used successfully on many other breakwaters along the NSW coast to improve surface conditions for the public to walk on and for other recreational purposes.

The Evans Head breakwater wall was asphalted last month. But many Brunswick Heads residents don’t want the same treatment for the southern breakwater on the Brunswick River.
The Evans Head breakwater wall was asphalted last month. But many Brunswick Heads residents don’t want the same treatment for the southern breakwater on the Brunswick River.

‘A gravel surface does not provide a safe and stable surface for members of the community who are mobility impaired. An asphalt surface, to be maintained by DPI – Lands, was identified as the most suitable surface.’

Mr Clarke said the Bundjalung of Byron Bay Aboriginal Corporation (Arakwal) was consulted and advised over the breakwater works and there was ‘no issue’ with the proposal.

He said that the dredging of the river and boat harbour was being carried out under the NSW Government’s Dredging of Priority Waterways on the North Coast Program ‘which aims to improve navigation safety and access for industry and commercial operations, tourism charter vessels and recreational boating’.

‘A bed level survey (hydrosurvey) of the river and boat harbour was undertaken to determine water depths and to identify shallow areas that require dredging for safe navigation. The areas identified for dredging were confirmed by NSW Roads and Maritime Services – Boating Safety Officer,’ Mr Clarke said.

‘Within the boat harbour vessels at some locations lie on the bottom and cannot move at low tide. The dredging will restore the function of these moorings,’ he said.

Around 10,000 cubic metres of sediment from the river (clean marine sand) will be used for beach nourishment at New Brighton Beach, while around 1,500 cubic metres of contaminated sediment from the boat harbour, ‘found to contain potential acid-sulfate material and low levels of the banned anti-fouling boat paint known as Tri-butyl Tin (TBT)’, will be disposed of in geo-fabric bags to landfill in Queensland.

Mr Clarke said the river was previously dredged in the 1970s and mid 1990s and that ‘the frequency of dredging campaigns depends on prevailing weather conditions such as big seas and floods as well as availability of NSW government funding’.

‘To meet the demand for dredging the NSW government has approved $9 million over four years, with a focus on waterways between Tweed Heads and Forster.

‘Maintenance dredging will continue to be undertaken where there is a demonstrated need to improve safe navigation and whilst funds are available.’

Mr Clarke said the department had ‘consulted with representatives of the boating community and various harbour users’.

He concluded that ‘given the high level of interest expressed by the Brunswick community with local infrastructure projects, DPI – Lands will ensure that future projects are broadly communicated and information circulated in a timely manner’.

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  1. The reporting on the dredging of the harbour failed to mention that the removed material will be drained through the geotextile fabric onsite prior to removal. The copper and tri-butyl tin of antifoul paints removed at the slipway, together with the acid sulphate from the land, bind with the finest of sediment particles due to surface charges. What assurances are there that these exceptionally toxic materials won’t spread throughout the Cape Byron Marine Park? The finer the particle the further it will spread. The Marine Park Authority refused to give them approval due to fears for the area’s ecosystems. The fishermen at the meeting, particularly those associated with the sale of the co-op and redevelopment of the harbour to a “Gold Coast” style, appear to be very in support of the dredging. What if the fish they predate for a living are killed or made unfit for human consumption? Still in support?

  2. Some people will always find something to whinge ad whine about. I’ll bet the mums with prams are happy about a sealed path though.

  3. Jon, We use the walkway all the time without a drama and with a pram. Our older kids like running barefoot and are not happy at the thought of super hot asphalt under their feet in the middle of summer. A natural surface would be better and wheelchairs can still use it with breeze. There has been no community consultation on this one so thats why we are complaining Jon, Its us members of the community that give a damm about what happens in our community and we deserve and expect to have a say. And I dont believe the majority of mums (and dads) are happy about this either like you suggest !

  4. Paul, this article clearly states that there will be 2.4 metres of asphalt surface with a 1 metre strip of natural sand so your children can run along the sand surface while prams and wheelchairs will use the asphalt. Sounds like an excellent compromise to me.

    We need to remember that the state government is responsible for the safety of the coastal region tor the total NSW community not just the residents of Brunswick Heads. We should be appreciative that the state government has our safety interests at heart. Remember they are reinforcing the rock walls of the breakwater as well as maintaining the access path. I wouldn’t like to leave it to our council – given what a lousy job they do of maintaining our local roads.

  5. Here’s a hypothetical situation that has massive legal repercussions for the government of the local area. It’s 4pm on a winters day and it’s a .2mtr low tide at the Brunswick Bar and there is a 1mtr north easterly swell running. Waves are breaking across the bar crossing constantly and night is approaching. The Brunswick marine rescue gets a call to attend a diving accident just off shore, where the patient can only be brought to shore safely via boat, as the rescue helicopter can’t be used due to altitude. The boat that the men are diving off has broken down and can’t get to shore under it’s own power, let alone cross the bar safely. The Captain of the rescue crew tells emergency services “sorry mate – we can’t get our boat out through the bar on a low tide let alone up the river to the mouth. You’ll have to call the Tweed or Ballina boys to help out! But….. If you wait another 3 or 4 hours til the tide comes in a bit we might be able to have a crack at it?” Rescue crews are delayed an hour due to the Brunswick boat not being serviceable and the patient dies before they can get the person ashore. The coroner finds that the Byron shire council and Brunswick heads lobby groups are to blame for the delay in medical aid being rendered and are directly responsible for the death, because they blocked dredging works planned for the river and hadn’t ensured safe passage of the only marine rescue vehicle through the heads at Brunswick. Relatives of the deceased start a multi-million dollar law suit against Byron Shire Council and BHPA. The State Government wipes it’s hands of all wrong doing (as they had planned and funded the proposed works) and the Byron Shire Council councillors are held directly to blame as an entity AND individually, because they did not foresee the danger and actively lobbied to have the danger stay unchanged.

    Some times no matter how much impact there is on the environment – the law will always take precedence. I’d advise the members of both these organisations to have a good look at a law called “duty of care” and make sure they have a good legal representation if they feel that it doesn’t apply to them. This law also applies to the paving of the south wall……. which I’m sure all local councils run scared of every day.

  6. Peter, a great point you have made. The Byron Shire Council, the FGP and the BHPA make all sorts of decisions and play political games without any accountability or sense of responsibility. Bring on a court case I say, otherwise they will continue to behave as if they are above the law.


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