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.
‘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’.