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Byron Shire
May 6, 2021

Byron’s gang of five determined to scuttle Belongil beach

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In its 1988 LEP, Byron Shire Council adopted a policy of ‘planned retreat’ for development along the coastline, Belongil being seen as particularly vulnerable.

After 1988 anyone building there had to sign acknowledgement of responsibility for loss due to erosion, new buildings had to be removable and at the same time it was understood that losses to development approved before that date would be compensated by council.

Since then there have been a number of illegal developments and Belongil residents have installed a variety of coastal protections without approval; council eventually responded with some ‘soft’ protective measures but always resisted the demand for rock walls.

The original Coastline Development Committee began its deliberations in the mid 1990s with a film (since disappeared) showing the devastating effects of sea walls on beaches throughout the world.

The committee included Belongil landowners among other interested ratepayers and discussions were often volatile but eventually – after many meetings and expensive consultants’ reports – the committee decided on planned retreat and the plan was supposed to be sent to state government for approval; no-one seems to know what happened to that original, hard-won piece of decision-making.

The current council has employed WRL (Water Research Laboratory) who have recommended an engineered solution – walls with walkway on top.

Clearly in recognition of what this will do to the beach, they offer the following in their summary: ‘A range of useable, public beaches, from urban to nature reserve wilderness, will still be available within the 37 km of coastline in Byron Shire without Planned Retreat’.

Given the record of this council, the (expensive) abandonment of our beach at Belongil is likely to be approved for exhibition and our submissions will be the last opportunity we have to tell our five pro-development councillors what we think of their decision-making.

Jenny Coman, Bangalow


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