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Byron Shire
September 18, 2021

Push for Belongil creek works cops flak

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Byron Shire councillor Sol Ibrahim.
Byron Shire councillor Sol Ibrahim’s amendment at last week’s council meeting seeks NSW Coastal Panel input into a request for creek protection works on public land adjoining a private resort.

Hans Lovejoy

Byron shire Cr Sol Ibrahim’s enthusiasm for ‘coastal protection works’ now extends to providing potential passage for the $100m Elements of Byron resort to ‘reinforce and stabilise’ the Belongil creek edge around the estuary opening.

Yes that’s right – another project aimed at tinkering with sensitive coastal ecosystems is on the table, and it got the votes up at last Thursday’s Council meeting.

It’s all in an effort to ‘save the littoral rainforest’ which we are told by project manager Jeremy Holmes is being washed into the sea.

As the land joins both their private property and council managed land, they sought council support in moving towards a coastal protection project.

While staff were not supportive of the application for it to proceed, that didn’t stop Cr Ibrahim from whacking up an unexpectedly lengthy quasi-legal looking amendment that said the top experts in the field – the NSW Coastal Panel – should consider it.

‘It’s quite possible it may fail,’ Cr Ibrahim said at one point during his reading of the lengthy amendment.

During debate, the mayor said how ironic it was that there had been new found respect for the coastal panel, with the inference being that Cr Ibrahim’s team didn’t appear to be interested in their advice on the Belongil wall project/fiasco.

Cr Duncan Dey then asked if there was more information provided by the applicant other than two diagrams and a letter of request to council, to which staff said no.

Cr Di Woods was the only other councillor to speak in favour, and said it was ‘extraordinary’ that staff didn’t support the idea, given that ‘as a council, we are in favour of protection of high conservation environments.’

She said, ‘Why wouldn’t we bend over backwards and say, “We hear that you want to protect that ecologically endangered area?” We have seen what they have lost… why wouldn’t we jump through hoops to make sure there is some protection to stop the rest of it from eroding away?’ This [motion] is only about getting our consent – I think we should do anyway. Why should someone else have to do it for us?’

Cr Dey said ‘The way to protect anything is not to interfere with it. In this case it sounds great – it’s a high conservation area and we will protect it by putting a wall in, but the reality is that it evolved over tens of thousands of years. It relies with having a sand face with Belongil Creek.’

He said the worst part of this proposal was this potentially giving credit to the idea that locking nature down and interfering with it is good management.

‘It just isn’t. I don’t want anything built there. Why lead the applicant astray and let them think we want it to go ahead?’

He later told Echonetdaily that ‘The environmental investigations and studies will be huge… unless the five councillors invent a way to avoid them.’

‘One of the biggest issues is that preventing a creek from its natural meandering creates all sorts of other forces in train. Google “geomorphology of waterways”,’ Cr Dey said.

‘Be aware also that a certain resident raises the issue of walls for Belongil Creek at most committee meetings he attends. And this despite being explained over and over that ‘opening’ the mouth of the creek increases flood levels in the estuary. It’s a myth that opening the mouth will decrease them.’

When the vote was taken Crs Dey, Richardson, Cameron and Spooner were against.

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  1. Where in hell do these guys get their hairbrained ideas from?
    Hasn’t nature been managing the planet for 4.7 billion years?
    How is it we dundaheads think we can do better?
    Leave it for nature to weave its magic.

  2. You just can’t expect the kind, who proliferate in councils to either understand or care. There is no remediation, temporary or certainly not permanent.
    Sea levels are rising and as David Suzuki pointed out in his book The Sacred Balance of nearly twenty years ago, anything below the sixty six meters above the traditional sea-level is destined to destruction and this applies to inland waterways as well.
    The icecaps are melting ! When the icecaps melt, the new sea-level will be 66 meters higher. Byron Bay will be a nice spot to do a little diving and you will be able to swim around the submerged light-house.

  3. You can’t spend 100+ years building a town on a beach (including removal of dune system, sand mining, and construction of artificial headland where the swimming pool is) and then not expect for some stabilisation works to need to take place in some areas. It is just not realistic to think that these areas so close to town can remain untouched forever, given how much the coastline has been changed in such close proximity. I am all for preserving untouched areas of the coast, but we also need to accept that Council have a responsibility to manage the developed areas of the coast (within a few KM’s of the town) so that it allows for safe habit in areas that were deemed a long time ago to be allowed to be used for development. Nature will always adjust. Yes there should be limits and the vast stretches of Tyagarah nature reserve should be kept pristine. But we need to accept that areas where people live and work need some stabilisation (just like everywhere else in the world where you have town on the coast). So the key is to do it well, not to pretend the stabilisation doesn’t need to happen, which only results in more issues including for the environment. Remember it wasn’t long ago that Byron derived its income from sand mining, killing whales and chopping up cows. So it has come along way quickly in the environmental stakes. But building a town and changing the coastline over the past 100 years can’t be undone, it now needs to be well managed.

  4. People should be encouraged to go and have a walk up the mouth of Belongil Creek’s opening to the sea.
    Take a picnic lunch and discover that this is probably the most wonderful micro environments on offer in Byron Bay.

    If any “management” is required, it would be to ensure it is left untouched.

    Our collective history of CO2 emissions, is way more than enough for nature to contend with.

    Nature’s ways are beautiful.

    We must be very mindful that we could easily end up with an endless series of man made eye-sores after man made eye-sores, as we pretend to know better.

    Pen pushers + machinery + diesel = man made eye-sores.
    Byron = nature
    Leave it alone = nature
    Nature = wonder over time + quality of life + appreciation + enjoyment = survival

  5. I agree this is a beautiful spot. I was at the creek mouth with my kids enjoying the area only a few days ago. But the reality is that the area where the development is was zoned and approved for development a long time ago. So if recent information suggests this area is at risk, and a solution to manage this is available that will help protect and stabilise this environment further, with minimal impact, should not it be considered? What is the alternative? Pretending the area was never zoned, sold, developed doesn’t achieve anything. Trying to turn developed areas back into a national park is not feasible, in the same way that the centre of Byron cannot not be turned back into sand dunes. It’s a complex issue. Byron town is not nature. it is a town with a centre on reclaimed land on an artificial headland at the carpark, and therefore with an artificial beach created by the groyne at main beach. Wategoes is stabilised by rocks protecting the road, the walkway to the pass is now suspended steel, and its still all an increbily beautiful area. If the town is a town it has to be stabilised and managed properly. Pretending otherwise is not productive. I am sure everybody in Byron agrees that preserving the natural environment must be the highest priority, but it needs to be within the realm of what is practicable, accepting that Byron is a functional town. People like the balance of nature and careful development, which is why people flock to holiday and live in Byron, and not so much Tyagarah – which is not far away for anyone that really wants a pristine environment with no development whatsoever.


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