Coastal engineering is social engineering

When preparing the Coastal Zone Management Plan, why does Byron Shire Council rely only on engineering reports? Under the guise of Belongil coastal ‘adaptive management’ the latest advice recommends building: ‘stage 1 – A seawall with walkway; stage 2a – an initial self-filling trial groyne; stage 2b – additional groynes; and stage 3 – small-scale sand nourishment.’

The powerpoint is online at the council website. It makes unsubstantiated claims such as residents only value the beach and Belongil waterway for recreation, never thinking we value their ecosystem services too: flood mitigation, pollution repair, coastal and marine biodiversity.

Another claim is that planned retreat only benefits tourists and is financed only by Belongil landowners. This ignores the obvious fact that the entire community is involved with not only the retreat but the entire social and environmental re-organization of the sand spit as well as other coastal places in the shire.

Finally, the report projects the costs of the engineering as ‘Landowners: $23 million Council and State $6 million each’. This contradicts its earlier point that planned retreat is unfair: the onus falls on Belongil landowners. This sounds more like a ‘free-market’ idea: if they pay, they want it their way.

What we need is a socio-ecological report, scoping modern options about planned retreat and post retreat opportunities.

Mary Gardner, Byron Bay

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