Byron Shire Council’s bulldozers are expected to start work on the contentious Belongil rock wall this week after the injunction to stop it from being built failed last Friday.
But it appears the fight is far from over.
Environmental group Positive Change for Marine Life, being represented by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), took council on over its lack of adequate environmental assessment.
CEO Karl Goodsell told Echonetdaily the group is disappointed with the outcome of the hearing in the Land and Environment Court.
‘The judge said that, “If rock walls can be built, rock walls can be dismantled”.’
‘We are looking forward to receiving the court’s reasons for the decision, which will be delivered in the coming days. If we are correct on the ultimate question regarding significant impacts on the environment, then the wall may be removed even if council decide to proceed with construction.
‘We would like to thank the EDO, our barristers and the community for all of their hard work and support in this matter.’
Meanwhile a Byron Shire councillor opposed to the works says that benefitting landowners have pitched in financially to help council defend itself in court, however a Council spokesperson said that the landowners were not contributing financially to council’s case.
Cr Duncan Dey (Greens) said, ‘[The] most interesting outcome is that the benefitting landholders joined with council against the injunction. The issue is moral, not legal. How moral is it to build this wall just before you discuss the issue of whether to rock or not rock[wall] your coast?’
Known rather oddly as lnterim Beach Access Stabilisation Works, the rock wall project will cost ratepayers nearly $1million and funds have even been shuffled from staff leave entitlements to make it happen. The project has seen extreme public scrutiny and criticism, firstly because it is setting a precedent and secondly because council staff do not know its legal implications .
There are many unknowns: there is no known example of rocks being removed once in place, and the project comes without mitigation in place for the expected sand loss on the iconic public beach.
Additionally, a recent freedom of information request by former Greens mayor Jan Barham revealed that the top coastal panel which advises the NSW government is not in favour of using rocks for the project.
Councillors were advised of the outcome of the recent court action by an internal memo from infrastructure services director Phil Holloway, who said that the applicant’s notice of motion was dismissed, resulting in no injunction.
‘Proceedings were stood over to 9.15 am Tuesday, September 15 for the court to make directions for the running of the final hearing sometime between October 6 and 26 2015.
‘[The] costs of the applicant’s unsuccessful motion for the interim injunction were reserved… the hearing of the matter is to be expedited.’