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Byron Shire
June 24, 2024

Complaints and threats embroil Byron coastal policy

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A controversial rock wall is being proposed to combat erosion at Belongil Beach.
A controversial rock wall is being proposed to combat erosion at Belongil Beach.

Hans Lovejoy

It was all going swimmingly for the Byron Shire Council majority at last Thursday’s meeting. Plans to publicly exhibit a major coastal policy – albeit incomplete and with major legal uncertainties – was passed with the usual vote, accompanied by the usual rhetoric and noisy residents in the chamber.

Those in favour of protecting Belongil landowners with beach frontage are councillors Ibrahim, Woods, Alan Hunter, Cubis and Wanchap.

Those in the minority are mayor Richardson, Crs Dey, Spooner and Cameron, who are against possibly losing the iconic world-renowned Belongil beach.

A 1.6km rock wall is planned.

But a last-minute rescission motion by Cr Duncan Dey threw the coastal zone management plan Byron Bay Embayment (CZMP BBE) into chaos. A rescission motion allows councillors to revisit previous motions that have been passed, and in this case, puts even more pressure on whether the policy can be done and dusted by the June 30 deadline.

Cr Dey’s rescission motion – which will most likely be rejected at this Thursday’s council meeting – attempts to seek more information on planned retreat options, extend public consultation past the minimum time frame and asks for ministerial and department advice.

It enraged Cr Sol Ibrahim, who immediately instigated a Code of Conduct (CoC) complaint against those who signed the rescission motion: Crs Dey, Cameron and mayor Richardson.

Cr Ibrahim claims the trio intentionally delayed the CZMP BBE.

He told The Echo, ‘The Local Government Act 1993 has been amended so that the use of rescission motions to impede the proper functioning of a council is misconduct and therefore subject to Code of Conduct complaints.’ But mayor Simon Richardson told The Echo that he has every right to contest the motion, owing to so many problematic issues identified within the CZMP BBE.

CoC threat

It also turns out that Cr Ibrahim previously threatened Cr Dey with a CoC complaint, after Cr Dey recently announced he intends to publish a press release by a committee overseeing the CZMP BBE.

Cr Dey is chair of the Project Reference Group (PRG), and he will ask council this Thursday to support him in providing the public with more information over planned retreat.

And while Cr Ibrahim claims going to the media contravenes the PRG constitution, it appears that section 15 allows it. It reads that, ‘PRG members, unless authorised by council, are not to promote or advertise the group’s activities or to speak on behalf of the committee with the media. Only the chair can speak on behalf of the Committee with the media.’

The Echo understands that council staff are considering the CoC investigation into the three councillors who moved the rescission motion.

And as a result of Code of Conduct inquires, those under investigation are forbidden to talk to the media, as it is treated as confidential.

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  1. We could have a plethora of CoCs if they were taken out against councillors who discuss DAs with developers without council staff being present.

  2. Democracy at its finest! Those in favour of the rockwall must actually believe that this rockwall will protect their homes. First big storm event that coincides with big tides will put that belief to the test. Oceanic power is far greater than deluded self-interest and flawed policy. As has been documented worldwide, when the ocean has enough force behind it, any seawall/rockwall can and has been breached.

  3. Has nobody considered that there is nothing to stop rising seawater entering Belongil Creek, and causing flooding on the Belongil Spit ?
    Having lived in the Netherlands I can attest to the fact that where there are seawalls there is no beach, except where artificial beaches are made at great continual expense.

  4. Democracy thwarted again by Ibriham. The public have a right to know. A code of conduct (CoC) should never be used as a weapon to obstruct the democratic process and further used to punish those representing the public interest. All power to the Councillors who now are to silenced during an investigation concerning their democratic rights. Mr. Ibriham do you understand what democracy stands for….or do you choose to continue to operate in wilful ignorance of the facts?

  5. Its incredible reading the comments above. It appears that most people with an opinion have never been to Belongil, nor do they understand what is actually proposed. This isn’t a new development, there is already a 1km+ long stretch of rocks, many of which have been there since the 70s. This proposal is simply to improve the walls to a better standard, to reduce impact and offer more public amenity. How can it not benefit the community? There have been many storm events and high tides while these rocks have been in place (the old car bodies were exposed a month ago) and the properties are just fine and so is the beach. I live here, so I know and see the sand movement daily, which is the same sand movement impacting the beach from Wategoes right through to Tyagrarah. The natural rocks at Wategos and the Pass have the same impact. Did you also know that there are actually more properties on the Belongil spit than there are in the Wategos area? And also 2 cafes, a college, a yoga business, beach resort and many accommodation options that are an important part of Byron Bay’s character and economy? If existing walls have done the job (and also preserved the beach for 30 years) then why is this new and improved wall going to destroy Byron Bay forever??? Its not. Did you also know that under the new plan beachfront owners will pay for the walls, and that there are many places (like the Gold Coast and most developed beaches in the world) where walls are mandatory, but no one even knows they are there as they are buried under sand? These are not ‘Sea walls’ like the Netherlands. We have a sandy shallow bay with a strong sweep running north. My observation is that sand pumping will never be required here – and that if one day the community wants a wider beach and the rocks buried under dunes, a self filling groyne in the right location will very quickly rebuild the beach to whatever height and width required. I might add that the beach has been proven to have diminished not because of the walls at Belongil (which are dry most of the time) but the damage has been caused by the rocks and groynes at the carpark in town. People are also massively underestimating the cost of planned retreat, which even if legal – would cost the community dearly. Imagine removing the whole of Wategoes from the map? Belongil is an important drawcard for Byron Bay exactly as it is. International tourists don’t come here to visit Tyagarah. They love the diversity and vibe of Belongil.

  6. And dj faith… Democracy is electing representatives and then them having a vote, and then accepting the outcome of the vote. the CoC is totally relevant – as the recision motion was obviously designed to stall and try to overpower the democratic process. This is what is undemocratic.

    • Well said David. And if Rose Wanchap did what she was elected to do rather than deceiving Greens voters from around the area, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. This is undemocratic, and this councils objectives do not represent the wishes of the people.

      If you are such a stalwart of democracy, then how come so much of this process has been done in secrecy and behind closed doors? How come public opinion means so little? Local politics is supposed to be about an avenue for the people to participate and state their needs, not for the private interests to ride roughshod over the public.

  7. Pamela Rose is correct. the rock wall will prevent the beach forming much of the time hence ruining what everyone came for in the first place. On the Gold Coast they have rocks walls but they have to spend $M/yr on sand replenishment and all the excess sand from high rise development sites has to be dumped on the beaches. Now they have so much development that they can’t afford to stop.
    Byron needs to learn from the (many) Gold Coast mistakes and NOT build the wall that will destroy the beach and cost too much to only protect a few individuals who should have known better than to buy there in the first place.
    It is a disgrace that some councillors want to spend so much money to protect only a few property owners. And when will they stop throwing good money after bad as sea levels rise a couple of meters over the next century and ea water goes around the wall to swamp much of the town?
    Planned retreat has been in place since the 80s and must be upheld.


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