Council misleading over Belongil settlement

Dailan Pugh, Byron Bay

Council is misleading the community with their pretence that their court settlement with a variety of Belongil property owners will have no impact on the implementation of planned retreat and have no cost to the community. The reality is that it further erodes planned retreat and will cost the community dearly.

Many of the existing rock and rubble walls at Belongil have been built unlawfully or on an ‘interim’ basis. As with Council’s recent rock folly, many have involved a commitment that they will later be removed if Council’s final Coastal Zone Management Plan recommits to planned retreat. No more.

Council’s agreement to allow Belongil property owners to retain any existing protective works gives them retrospective approval and undermines any future attempts to implement planned retreat because the landowners are no longer required to remove them.

Belongil Beach, west from the beginning of the retrospectively approved piles of rock, concrete and rubble, has been assessed as being worth $20 million each year in tourism revenue to local businesses. It is worth far more to the community for recreation.

The Belongil walls have already cost us half the beach in front of them. Over the next two decades most of the rest of the beach will be eroded because of these works. This is a real and growing cost to this community.

Because of their proximity, the Belongil walls have also been identified in Council studies as causing significant erosion to the west of the Belongil spit and the shorebird area at the mouth of the Belongil creek, with over 20m of the spit being eroded in the past decade alone.

This entails the erosion of the Cumbebin Swamp Nature Reserve and Council’s community land, along with the endangered littoral rainforest thereon. Most of the spit west of the walls is likely to be eroded over the next two decades with a multitude of environmental impacts.

The community have been kept in the dark over this for far too long. Instead of producing misleading propaganda the council needs to come clean and publish on its website the legal undertakings given to the Belongil residents.

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