Byron Shire Council is forging ahead with its controversial Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) despite the dire warnings of one councillor that it is ‘heading over a cliff’.
Byron’s majority faction voted last Thursday to reject a rescission motion to hold back the plan, putting it on exhibition from last Saturday (May 21) for just 21 days for public comment.
ALP councillor Paul Spooner, who supported the failed rescission motion, said Byron residents deserved better than the ‘grossly inadequate’ timeframe for reading and digesting a plan that had been five years in the making.
He has described it as ‘impulsive’ and ‘short-sighted decision-making’ and posed the question, ‘Is this council operating in a fair and proper manner?’
As well as the highly controversial 1.6 kilometre rock wall slated for Belongil Beach, the CZMP also proposes an upgrade of the Jonson Street protection works and removal of the spur groynes.
But by contrast it maintains a watching brief on other parts of the coast, including North Beach and a ‘coastal hazard investigation’ of Lighthouse Road, Captain Cook car park and Marine Parade Wategos Beach.
Cr Spooner said council had been working on the CZMP since 2011 but that there were still significant shortcomings in the proposal.
‘We are talking about a very complex document, with many parts to it [and] a lot of research that’s gone into it,’ he said.
‘For the community to only have 21 days to absorb what this means for the shire and to comprehend what the implications of the plan are, I think is far, far too short. And it’s far too important a policy to be rushed through the community.’
Cr Spooner also criticised the consultation process as having ‘very limited community involvement through the Project Reference Group’, adding that ‘even the expertise that’s on there doesn’t have enough time to absorb what we’re putting out and we’ll be looking at adopting on June 29.’
And while the state government has called in all council CZMPs that are ‘nearly ready’ by June 30, Cr Spooner believes Byron Council’s motivations are ‘more political than that’.
‘I think its got to do with ensuring that we’ve got a document that suits the majority of councillors, in this term of council, being adopted
‘This is a document, however, that sets a policy up – not just for this council or the next – but for many years to come,’ Cr Spooner said.
‘We have a plan that will be put in place that will influence the management of the beach and coastal zone of Byron Bay – one of the most important environmental, social and economic assets of our community. We should get the greatest amount of community input possible before this decision is taken because it will be something that unfortunately will affect the whole community.
‘This decision should not be made on political grounds, as to who’s got the majority in the chamber of the time, it should be made in the best interests of the community,’ Cr Spooner said.
‘This is not just about a small stretch of beach at Belongil. This is actually about what it will cost this community going forward. There are economic implications in this report that I believe are not well thought through. We have question marks over what will happen with the construction of a rock wall at Belongil, about how that will be managed and how that will impact on the beach.
‘These things are not just a decision that’s taken and then we can tick a box and move on. There will be big implications if this plan is to go through. I would like to see at least a two-month time where people are able to absorb what’s in here and make reasonable comment.’
No plan B
Cr Spooner has also criticised what he believes are significant shortcomings in the plan, in particular what might happen to Belongil Beach once a sea wall is built.
‘If this plan were to go forward you’d be building a rock wall with an attitude of “wait and see what happens”. I don’t think that is appropriate for the coastal zone. I think that if you start to interfere with the natural processes in a coastal area you should at least have an idea what your plan B’s going to be if the beach disappears.
‘These are the questions that need to be explored before we go running headlong over the cliff in terms of both an environmental disaster and an economic disaster for this shire,’ Cr Spooner said.
The Jonson Street protection works are estimated to cost about $6.2 million in total and council would be seeking funds from the state government’s Coastal Management Program to implement the works.
The draft plan proposes a private/public funding model for the Belongil seawalls, with council funds directed towards works adjacent public lands. At a total cost estimated at $14.3 million, council’s proportion is estimated to be just over $1 million.
Suffolk Park, Brunswick Heads, New Brighton and South Golden Beach are also included in Part E of the draft CZMP BBE which is an Emergency Action Sub Plan for the Byron Shire Coastline, which deals with coastal erosion emergencies.
Upcoming information sessions include:
- Tuesday May 24 (8am to 11am) – New Brighton Farmers Markets
- Thursday May 26 (8.30 am to 10.30am) – Suffolk Park Shopping Centre
- Monday May 30 (10am to 12 midday) – Brunswick Heads Library (outside)
- Tuesday June 7 and Wednesday June 8 (9am to 11am) – Byron Bay Library (foyer)
- Thursday June 9 (7am to 11 am)- Byron Farmers Markets
The draft plan is available for inspection at Council’s Administration Office, Station Street Mullumbimby, at the Byron Bay Library and is also on Council’s website: http://yoursaybyronshire.com.au/coastal-zone-management-plan-byron-bay-embayment