Pay forever for coastal ‘protection’

Byron Shire Council’s meeting of February 4 included Report 13.10 on the Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) for future coastal management of the Byron Bay Embayment – the Belongil saga.

Attachment 1 to the report is an early draft of minutes of a meeting that council staff had on December 8 with our consultants and state government (OEH) officers, about the OEH’s dissatisfaction with the CBA.

An addendum at pages 5 to 8 of the minutes is OEH’s list of errors and assumptions in the 2015 version of the CBA. That CBA is now being reworked by council’s consultants, at an additional cost of $13,500 (plus more $000s added by council on February 4). We already spent $26k on redrafting the CBA in 2015, when council rejected the OEH offer to do it free of charge.

Expenditure aside, and forgetting the nature of the 2015 errors and assumptions, it’s sad to see that coastal decision-making is based on very short timeframes for the costs and benefits of the various options for our coast at Belongil. After the CBA is re-jigged in 2016, this community will choose whether to approve rocks on the kilometre of Belongil coast (where the rocks are already) or to let that stretch go back to its natural dune and beach format.

The shorter the term, the better it looks to march in and protect the real estate with rocks. If you look long-term, however, the act of protection costs communities forever.

The walls get damaged and need rebuilding after each big 1950s-type storm. If we abandon dreams of impregnable real estate, the costs fade to zero in the longest term. Leaving the coast alone to be enjoyed by all comers forever costs next to nothing, when thought of as a project over hundreds of years.

The current 35-year timeframe of the Cost Benefit Analysis for our coast is crazy. Good planning looks at outcomes over seven generations, not just one!

As we see from other places where hard works have been installed, the public pay. The ‘protection’ arrangement at the Gold Coast has been there a century so far. Its annual planned maintenance bill is $10 million. If there’s a catastrophic failure, more dollars would be found.

What politician is ever going to pull the pin on that protection once people have invested behind the walls? Choose ‘protection’ once and you have it forever, and keep paying forever. That’s in addition to getting a crappy Gold Coast-style beach, or no beach at all.

Byron Shire councillor Duncan Dey, Main Arm


One response to “Pay forever for coastal ‘protection’”

  1. David says:

    It’s important to look holistically and consistently at the coastal policies for the township of Byron Bay. Does the community get to choose some rocks and not others? Why? Why is Belongil the focus? What erosion have the Belongil rocks caused? Or is this personal? The rocks protecting the artificial / unnatural and reclaimed land in town have been proven to be the cause of the erosion at Belongil as they extend into the surf. The land at Belongil was some of the first that the government sold in the 1800’s because of the proximity to the creek and the height. (The houses on the beach are probably 4-5m higher above sea level than anything else at Belongil or the main part of town). So surely if the rocks go, all the rocks go?

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