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Byron Shire
October 20, 2021

Marshalls Creek flooding very real

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Jillian Spring, Billinudgel. 

I respond to the letter Flood disease affecting people’s thinking by Matthew Lambourne, Echonetdaily May 21.

I refute what he said and in particular in relation to rock walls at Readings Bay, the ‘other diseases’ and the attack on people trying to have flooding issues dealt with in the Marshalls Creek basin, that is to remove debris, clean Marshalls Creek, open old creek entrances, the massive rock wall that forms Readings Bay to be removed and the build up of sand there and an overall dealing with all issues.

In the Draft North Byron Flood Study Report, Glossary xiii: ‘Partial blockage of floodway areas would cause a significant redistribution of flood flows, or a significant increase in flood levels.’

Damage, stress, massive economic losses are at the stage now where people are saying – enough is enough. We want action.

Page 7: ‘Another form of structure present in the catchment that influences the flood behaviour is rock walls.

‘Figure 2.2: Shows the location of rock walls. These structures constrain the outflow of floodwater draining Marshalls Creek and the Brunswick River. The rock walls have been included in the flood model’s terrain.’

Page 108, 9.3.3: ‘Brunswick Heads … in a possible maximum flood event, the entrance is too narrow for the flood water to escape.’

I ask, has all been done to keep us safe? Do we question what has been done? Do we forget until the next flooding crisis comes? Are we trusting, assuming something is being done?


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  1. Jillian,
    Re: Rock walls at river mouths
    In the spring on the Northern Rivers from August to November it is the dry months so there are many variables from drought to flood, and besides that there are the tides twice a day so the rock walls in their placement have to be a compromise based on scientific data and they need to be slightly narrow to create a dynamic flowing entrance with water that is always on the move. Water, via erosion, can carry many billions of tonnes of sand and when the tide turns the water flow literally stops. When it stops, gravity drops the sand to the bottom of the river. This is called silting and without the rock walls to create a dynamic river entrance the river silts up and blocks the entrance.
    The entrance of a river is meant to be a rushing torrent in and out all the time, to keep it clear.
    Many years ago I researched the sinking of the ship “The Coolangatta” that sank in 1846 on what is now Coolangatta Beach.
    I sent messages to the Archives section of the Sydney Morning Herald, and the historians sent back the research I needed:
    Dated Thursday, November 26, 1846 was this:
    “The Fanny Morris arrived yesterday morning from the Tweed, after a long run of sixty hours. The Louisa, Hyndes, Sara Wilson and Jane Williams were lying there bar bound, owing to the north channel being blocked up. Another channel had, however, formed to the southward, through which the Fanny Morris came out. At noon on Sunday last, saw the steamer Tamar, off Cook’s Island, hence for Morton Bay. Captain Whyte states that the hull of the Coolangatta had been lifted out of the sand and placed on rollers, and had every prospect of being launched in a short time.”
    Just what was the north channel of the Tweed River? Greenmount Beach at Coolangatta was once the entrance to the Tweed River through the Jack Evans Boatharbour so the river once emptied into what is now Queensland. Maybe that was the north channel. The ships were bar bound in 1846 and could not get out of the River. From that point to the south, south of Fingal Head is Wommin Lake, a lake between the river and the ocean so that Lake could also have been another entrance to the Tweed River. So as times changed from dry to flood the mouth of the river changed direction and position. Rock walls cause a dynamic surge of water to stop the mouth from silting up.
    In a flood, imagine the bottom of the river, with an enormous tonnage of surging water going out to the ocean, the water is digging deeper and deeper into the earth on the bottom removing it to make way so the water can get out. With wider walls the water flow would slow and slowly silt up as history has recorded.

  2. Thanks for the history lesson, but this is not 1846, there are many aspects of life and technology that are no longer relevant or acceptable. If council have made decisions in the past which now seem to causing damage and we have the means to correct the problem we should get on and fix it. I assume there are more levers to pull than leaving a rock wall in place. To bad Byron Bay township was not established in the north of the shire, this problem would have been addressed years ago.

  3. Honestly Jillian You need to research this subject of flooding in the north of the shire. Your attacks on local residents and other volunteers who were on the Marshalls Creek Floodplain Committee is deplorable. I was on this committee for more than 8 years as a local resident and utilised my knowledge gained by local experience and derived from my degree in coastal management. Also I can vouch for Matthew Lambourne’s commitment and knowledge. Contrary to your statement, the committee was comprised by residents from New Brighton, Ocean Shores, and North Ocean Shores, not just South Golden Beach. All volunteering their time and efforts.
    Unfortunately you have been misled by the propaganda that was and is still being spread by certain individuals. As committee members we were at pains to include professional assessments of the various ‘options’ put forward by the propagandists to ensure that they could not continue to spread their unfounded opinions. As anyone can see, it makes no difference to these people who continue to push their agendas regardless. Options such as ocean openings, river dredging and rock walls were all addressed by various professionals employed by council and the state government. None of these options were feasible nor able to have significant impact on flood levels.
    We live on a floodplain, much of which is lower than sea level, with a meandering river. Such a coastal system can be expected to change relatively quickly in terms of geologic time scale. Silting is one aspect that you could expect to change, again, relatively quickly. Of course we will get flooding now and then. A primary aim is to stop the incessant land filling that development was/is doing to raise the flood levels by filling lowlying land.


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