Iconic Byron beaches listed as ‘at risk’ from climate change

The rocky cliffs of Cape Byron (File photo)

Byron Shire Council is working towards protecting its tourism market by increasing its reliance on renewable energy and cutting greenhouse gas pollution, according to mayor Simon Richardson.

Cr Richardson gave the assurance upon the release of a report warning that extreme weather caused by climate change was threatening Australia’s tourism industry.

The ‘Icons at Risk: Climate Change Threatening Australian Tourism’ report shows that beaches are listed in the top five natural destinations at risk, including locations across the New South Wales North Coast.

Beaches are listed as Australia’s favourite tourist destination and are threatened by beach erosion and rising sea levels, driven by worsening climate change.

Cr Richardson, a founding member of the Cities Power Partnership,  said the council was actively working to protect Byron’s tourism by increasing its reliance on renewable energy and cutting greenhouse gas pollution.

‘The tourist industry is a cornerstone to our economy, and our beaches are a cornerstone of who we are as a local community, and through the Cities Power Partnership, we’re rolling up our sleeves to do what we can to protect our most valuable assets,’ he said.

‘That’s why Byron Shire Council is part of this initiative. We’re joining 70 other councils, representing more than 8 million Australians, supporting our community’s transition to clean, affordable and reliable renewable energy. I would encourage all New South Wales councils to do the same.’

Climate Councillor and ecologist Professor Lesley Hughes said that Byron’s booming tourism industry could be hurt, unless urgent action was taken to tackle climate change.

‘Byron’s beaches are one of the world’s top holiday destinations, but face erosion from rising sea levels, as well as coastal flooding, driven by worsening climate change unless serious cuts are made to climbing carbon pollution levels.”

‘Local councils such as Byron Shire are accelerating the community’s shift to renewable energy through programs such as the Cities Power Partnership,” she said.

‘We have the opportunity to build a sustainable tourism sector that will continue to attract millions of visitors for years to come.’


  • Australia’s spectacular coastline with over 10,000 beaches is beloved by national and international visitors alike and is the mainstay of the tourism industry.
  •  International visitors rank beaches as the No. 1 Australian attraction and an estimated 62% of international visitors visit beaches at some time during their stay.
  •  Sea level rise, increased coastal flooding, and associated loss of sand have important implications for the tourism and recreational value of beaches in Australia.
  • Surveys of tourist responses to beach damage scenarios suggest that 17-23% would respond by switching destinations.

3 responses to “Iconic Byron beaches listed as ‘at risk’ from climate change”

  1. Dailan Pugh says:

    We are already losing Belongil Beach because the rock and ruble walls have prevented its retreat inland as seas rise, and the walls are increasing erosion of the beach to the west, to the point that it will soon break through to the Belongil estuary at the end of the walls. If the 4 landowners get their current applications to the NSW Coastal Panel to build new rock walls approved there will be no saving Belongil Beach.

    Belongil Beach has been identified as representing 28% of tourism beach usage in Byron Bay, which is conservatively valued at $32 million p.a. to the local economy. The beach north of Border Street is the area at risk from rock seawalls and this represents 62% of Belongil Beach’s value.

    Council needs to stop stuffing around and prepare the long, long overdue Coastal Zone Management Plan. The last one they prepared proposed turning Belongil beach into rock walls and was so bad that even this State Government rejected it. Time to get on with the job Simon and prepare a whole of Shire plan based on the principle of planned retreat (that has been in place since 1986) so that we get to keep our public beaches for all their values.

    You need to get real and recognise that even if we stop releasing carbon into the atmosphere tomorrow that there is already enough warming locked in to keep the seas rising for centuries (though not as fast and not as high). Its well past time to prepare a plan for our coastline that saves Belongil, and other, beaches.

    • Hi Dailin,

      Groins are treacherous and useless under these circumstances, I agree.
      A seawall at the rear of the beach however, is not.
      Please do NOT compare our system with a rock wall. Rock Walls suffer under storm surge and the rocks often get displaced. Our system interlocks and therefore does not go anywhere. It does not require the maintenance that rock and sand bag walls require.=and our system has a far greater longevity. We have one such wall that is 38 years old and still counting.

  2. Hi,
    Our system has been offered to the Byron Shire in the past and yet no one is looking to protect our future from the inevitable erosion caused by Ocean Rising which the Illuminati do not dispute.
    The product is affordable as well as being user and eco frendly

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