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.