A bid for an injunction against Byron Shire Council’s controversial rock wall construction at Belongil Beach will be heard by the NSW Land and Environment Court in Sydney tomorrow (Wednesday).
The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) yesterday secured a last-minute hearing in the court after councl’s lawyers rejected a request for an Environmental Impact Statement to be carried out for the works by last Friday.
Council instead gave the agreed 72-hours notice for starting work on the wall to community lobby group Positive Change for Marine Life, which the EDO is representing.
The notice by council means construction of the rock wall could begin as early as tomorrow (Wednesday).
The legal challenge, if successful, could set a precedent across Australia in regard to how local government deals with coastal erosion with the impact of sea-level rises due to climate change.
Positive Change for Marine Life spokesman Christopher Deimel said the interlocutory injunction being heard by the court tomorrow was a vital action and showed the Byron community was ‘standing behind local beach protection’.
Mr Deimel said there was widespread public anger at council’s decision to construct the ‘Interim Beach Access Stabilisation Wall’ and the issue was now coming to a head with the legal battle to halt the works.
‘The EDO requested an injunction be placed upon the commencement of the works until such a statement (the environmental impact study) allays concern that science and the community’s wishes are being ignored at the bequest of a small number of wealthy landowners,’ he said.
‘The NSW Coastal Panel has refused to endorse rock walls as a viable solution to coastal erosion.
‘The legal action comes after many months of heated public discontent at the handling of the proposal.
‘The case has the potential to set an important precedent across Australia in its dealing with coastal erosion in an era of increasing coastal development amid fears of climate change-induced sea-level rise,’ Mr Deimel said.
The contentious rock wall plan was pushed through in a vote where pro-development councillors had a slight majority.
The construction plan, using more than a $1 million in ratepayers’ money, reversed a decades-old policy of planned retreat.
Opponents say the plan was rushed through despite fears of unforeseen impacts such as sand and habitat loss.
Mr Deimel said locals, including a large surfer population, ‘fear the potential of this will lead to the need to transfer sand from the northern end of Tallow Beach to compensate likely sand loss’.
He said Positive Change for Marine Life was also urgently seeking the community’s financial support for the impending court case if the injunction succeeded, and that donations for the #SaveByronsBeaches campaign could be made to: https://planetfunder.org/projects/savebyronsbeaches