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Byron Shire
June 14, 2021

Belongil rock-wall challenge discontinued

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A protest agains the proposed Belongil rock wall took place on Wednesday September 8.  (picture: taojonesphotographer.com)
A protest against the proposed Belongil rock wall took place on Wednesday September 8.  Work on the site is continuing after an injunction to prevent its construction failed. (picture: taojonesphotographer.com)

Chris Dobney

The group Positive Change for Marine Life has discontinued its court challenge to the Belongil rock wall currently being constructed by Byron Shire Council.

Sue Higginson for the EDO (Environmental Defenders Office), which handled the case, said that as the judge had refused to issue an injunction to prevent the wall’s construction there was little point in proceeding with the case.

Ms Higginson said it could be ‘12 months from now’ before a decision was handed down on the legitimacy of the wall’s construction, by which time it would be ‘well and truly built’.

In a formal statement the EDO said, ‘The proceedings were discontinued last Friday on the agreement of all parties.

‘[The applicant] Positive Change for Marine Life considered that the utility in continuing the proceedings without the interim injunction was questionable.

‘The community group was seeking to prevent the wall from being constructed in the first place on the basis that it is likely that the rock wall will have a significant affect on the environment.

‘Had the community group been successful in this contest at a final court hearing a full and comprehensive environmental impact statement would have been required and council would have to make its decision about the wall based on that assessment.

‘But given the wall will be built by the time that contest is over, the only solution would be to knock the unlawful wall down.

‘In the past rock walls have been constructed at Belongil and the legality of them [is] questionable but they still remain,’ the EDO statement read.

Environment argument disputed

But Belongil resident John Vaughan has disputed the argument that the wall will cause environmental damage, claiming previous assessments conducted by the council argued this would not be the case.

‘What is clear is that lengthy independent studies and reports undertaken by Byron Shire Council in 2001, 2011 and 2013/2014 show that there were no or unlikely to be any “adverse environmental impacts and social impacts”, which was the subject of the court challenge, and it is self evident from these reports that the interim rock wall was not “ dubiously planned”,’ he told Echonetdaily.

Mr Vaughan also argued that the group was running out of money to fund the campaign, based on the current state of a fundraising campaign on the website planetfunder.org.

But Ms Higginson said that had the court case gone ahead she was confident it could have been fully funded.

‘The issue of community affordability is not relevant to this case, as much of the effort has relied on pro-bono support of senior barristers and the community has a history of rallying around to raise funding in cases such as this.’

She added that the comments showed ‘an absence of understanding  of how public interest law works.’

Justice Craig’s reasons for not granting the urgent injunction are due to be published today.


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5 COMMENTS

  1. How much more damage will be done to our fragile environment and beachscape, how much more damage will be done to public amenity and the town’s infrastructure, how much more damage will be done to the shire’s economy by Sol and Rose and the other 3 business-before-all council majority?????
    Will our townships be able to recover in the years ahead from the desecration reaped on the shire by this infamous 5. No planning, no thought to the future, no honesty. It’s an embarrassment to all our visitors and an insult to local residents. As one shop keeper was saying last week, this council has no idea of the harm they are doing. Roll on the next council elections. But will it be too late!?

  2. Completely disagree Jan. This is a sensible outcome, in court, based upon real evidence and law. Not scaremongering under the false banner of ‘save the beach’. So much money and time has been wasted with Council for years doing nothing – with Belongil at risk – proven to be caused by the artificial headland in town. The wall is there to fill the gap to protect the town and infrastructure and the creek. Finally Council seems to be working towards a long term solution to preserve precious Belongil. Not advocating destruction as past councils have done. The walls that have been there for years only have an impact a few times year when their base is exposed and they protect the Spit (and therefore the creek and township) and then any sand loss returns. Rocks are more natural than sand bags. Belongil is only 1.5km from the centre of town, and was the first subdivision in Byron. Trying to turn it back into a virtual national park is a ridiculous pipe dream that only wastes money and ignores the reality of the situation. This is a town built on a beach… Therefore the beach needs to be managed. Undeveloped areas like Tyagarah should remain undeveloped – but Belongil is no different to the centre of town or Wategos – needs to be protected.

  3. mc, Belongil residents would rather not have rocks on the beach, but without them there would be no Belongil Spit (thanks to the proven damage caused by rocks in town, oh and sand mining). The walls don’t just protect ‘rich peoples houses’ they protect the whole spit, including public land, council land, 50+ buildings, homes and business like the Treehouse, Bistro, roads, carparks, power lines etc. Go for a walk down there. Far easier to walk along Belongil beach at high tide than to the Pass at high tide. The rocks only block access every few years after a big storm, and without them there would be no beach to walk on.

  4. I guess you are a Belongil resident David. I suspect your need to protect your property is clouding your judgement and knowledge. The dunes at Belongil might have been drawn up for housing in the very beginning, but were never developed for very obvious reasons. For many years there was a plimsol line drawn up by former Councils that forbade development on the very dunes that are now being rocked up. If that had not been breached we would not be in this quandary.
    If you care to walk the full length of the beach occasionally, you will find that dunes rebuild everywhere else and the beach returns more rapidly after heavy storms. However, as most surfers and regular beach goers know, though observation over time, rocks repel the sand and regeneration takes twice as long. When storm surges are close together, a deep trough of water forms in front of the rocks. Besides, during storm seasons, the sand undermines the rocks and they sink lower and lower. What you are doing at Belongil spit is threatening your own properties by dumping more and more rocks. Eventually the spit will sink and only then will the entire spit be mortally threatened. Left alone, nature will allow that spit to protect the creek outlet and swamplands for decades longer, more than your lifetime. Still, I realise I am talking to a frozen mind and no amount of environmental studies and empirical evidence will convince you of your wrongdoing and how your actions threaten the township we all love. It’s such a shame.

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