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Byron Shire
September 19, 2021

Mayor claims coastal management plan derailed by Belongil landowners

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An urgent meeting with the premier on coastal zone management has been requested by mayor Simon Richardson to clarify a government backflip on Byron’s Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP).

Council’s latest attempt in the long-running saga of establishing a strategy to manage Byron Shire’s coastline was to exclude Belongil Spit from the plan.

Yet despite Council’s latest CZMP being endorsed by the state government, the mayor claims they were ‘over-ridden following lobbying from landholders of properties at Belongil Beach.’

Legal uncertainty

A Council staff report tabled at the Coastal Estuary Catchment Panel meeting on November 29 outlines the issues raised.

The report says Belongil Beach landowners are dissatisfied with Council’s decision to ‘separate the previous CZMP BBE (2016) into two locations and develop a newly formed plan excluding the Belongil Spit’.

Owing to ‘considerable legal uncertainty’, staff say the office of environment and heritage (OEH) have told Council it was not appropriate to recommend the CZMP (2018) be certified.

The report says instead that Council have been advised to commence development of a CZMP for the whole Byron Bay Embayment.

Council staff say they have commenced the planning for the coastline (Cape Byron to South Golden Beach).

‘The coastal protection works at Main Beach (JSPW) are degraded and not to contemporary engineering standards with Council committed to the redesign and modification of this structure.

‘Previous advice of the NSW Coastal Panel considered Master Planning of the Jonson Street area (town centre of Byron Bay) a high priority for implementation. As such, the upgrade/modification of the JSPW is at the forefront of the CZMP (2018).’

Cr Richardson said in a press release, ‘We were well down the track of a highly co-operative coastal management process with the state government’s Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and we made a joint decision, based on a large foundation of scientific evidence, to separate the previous CZMP Byron Bay Embayment (2016) into two locations and develop a newly formed plan excluding the Belongil Spit.’

Govt backflip

‘This was initially supported by the minister for environment, who invited Council to re-submit a coastal zone management plan excluding the Belongil Spit, so that’s what we did over eight months, to get certification of the plan.

‘Next thing we know, there appears to be a backflip from the state government, going against this invitation and the advice and work of its own department – and it appears that this is the result of complaints from a few landholders of properties at Belongil Beach.

‘We are extremely disappointed that all our hard work and this cooperative process between OEH and Council, not to mention the science, appears to have been subverted due to disproportionate influence by a few local landholders.

‘The reality is that there is no opposition to our coastal management planning from the wider Byron Shire community – who, let’s face it, are all key stakeholders when it comes to the management of our precious coast and what the impacts of climate change and sea level rise will mean for all of us in the future. 

‘What I want to ask the minister for the environment is whether she believes that opposition to this scientifically backed approach to achieving the best coastal management planning outcomes for Byron Shire by one stakeholder group should supersede getting this right for the whole community,’ he said.

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