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September 28, 2021

Coastal management vital – help Byron Shire Council plan

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Sheltering Palms near Brunswick Heads was destroyed in the Cyclone Pam of 1973. Image supplied.

Do you know about the little coastal community village called Sheltering Palms, near Brunswick Heads? It was a village that was destroyed by the cyclone of 1974 known as Cyclone Pam. Why is that important? Because there are a lot of areas, like Sheltering Palms, that are affected by erosion and cyclones along the coastal areas of Byron Shire. These areas need to be recognised and managed effectively through a Coastal Management Program (CMP).

The Byron Shire council us currently asking for your comment on Stage 1 of the Scoping Study of its long-term CMP. It will close on January 17, 2020.

The CMP will determine what is going to happen to our coastline, how it will be managed, where people can and can’t build and how we protect our natural assets like beaches, nature reserves and cultural heritage.

‘The study area encompasses the shoreline from the northern tip of Little Wategos Beach to our northern boundary, immediately to the north of South Golden Beach,’ Council’s coastal and biodiversity manager, Chloe Dowsett said.

It includes the near-shore coastal waters and beaches, and extends landwards to the maximum potential year 2100 coastal hazard lines as developed by Council for the study area in 2013.’

Coastal erosion at Belongil in 1999. Image supplied.

Important to understand cyclonic history of the region

Council have been working on this issue for many years with major planning and research conducted by council around 2008. At the time these studies informed council about the current sand transportation and modelling that should be used as a baseline information for future modelling said former Byron Shire Council Mayor Jan Barham.

‘Byron coastal history is peppered with periods of wild coastal storms, including cyclones that damaged structures and ripped away much of the coastline and vegetation,’ said Ms Barham.

‘Much of last century’s coastal destruction was exacerbated by the gouging of our shores by sand mining, leaving our coastal fringe fragile and unprotected. It is important that the community understand the council needs to ensure that we don’t allow development and building on areas that are unsafe and vulnerable. When people are seeking to build in these areas, that are known as coastal erosion zones, the council must take into account the proper legal consideration of the future risk; if they don’t it puts the whole community at risk.

‘With the high value of real estate in areas like Belongil and other coastal areas – council has to seriously consider the financial and legal risks of approving development in these vulnerable areas. Council has already been taken to court over the rock walls in Belongil as well as in other areas like New Brighton and South Golden Beach where coastal erosion has impacted. 

‘Thirty years ago these areas were selling very cheaply because people knew that they were sites of significant risk. At these sites there are also issues around getting insurance and the banks often won’t lend for mortgages in these erosion zones due to the very real risks associated with them.’

Coastal erosion is an ongoing issues in Byron Shire. Image supplied.

Stage 1 open for comment

Stage one will primarily focus on coastal hazards and the two areas of concern on the open coast between Cape Byron and South Golden Beach where property and/or infrastructure are at risk, including Belongil Beach and New Brighton Beach Ms Dowsett explains in the council’s press release.

‘However, the CMP will also aim to conserve and promote the natural, social and cultural values of the coastline through planning for a resilient coastline that addresses multiple challenges,’ she states.

‘Everyone with an interest in the management of this coastline is encouraged to review the scoping study and email any feedback to Council.’

For more information about the Stage 1 Scoping Study, see Council’s websiteIf you would like to provide feedback or chat with our Coastal & Biodiversity Coordinator, Chloe Dowsett, please contact Council on 02 6626 7128 or [email protected].


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  1. Palatial home with sea views, right on the beach with air-conditioning. Move in now, plenty of space. Nothing to pay. See the stars and the romantic moon at night and hear the beat of the ocean. Beachcomber’s dream. Won’t last long.

  2. Look !
    David Suzuki in the 1970s Explained that when the ice caps melt (which won’t be long by current experiences ) sea level will rise by 66 meters. how high above that is your infrastructure ?
    That’s right you haven’t a hope in hell !
    Remember King Canute ! Cheers G”)

  3. I know a bit about Sheltering Palms (definitely not Sheltering Pines, as mentioned above), as my father, Harry Richards, built them in the 50’s. He was raised just across the very narrow one lane road, more like today’s footpaths than a road, in a two storey house on the river.

    His father, Walter, was friendly with the local aboriginals, who taught him how to fish their way, and to walk through the bush to the sea, in a zig-zag, so the wind wouldn’t rush through, thereby protecting the bush from die back. – It’s hard to believe how barren it is there now, compared to my memory of how bushy it was when I was a kid. Die back decimated the trees over the years, and all the paths to the sea became straight lines. I’ve wondered many times, since the area was decimated in ‘74, and the houses and shop washed into the river, if this would have happened in the trees had all been still there…

    Sheltering Palms was his pride and joy. Someone described them as the early Club Med. He built a recreation room, various cabins, even a log cabin! He would catch fish for the visitors, and generally leave them alone to let them unwind. My maternal grandparents would come up from Sydney for their yearly holiday, and stay there. They were so impressed with Harry, that they told my mother, Phyl, to go there for a holiday. She did, and they eventually married.

    Also, in the cyclone (I always thought it was a southerly buster) the whole street parallel to Childe St, in Belongil, Byron Bay, also disappeared into the ocean. The damage happened all along the eastern coastline.

    • Thanks for the history of Sheltering Palms, Noni. The remains of the old coastal road are still there if you look for them. The ’74 storm was a cracker and unlike anything since, 20m waves. When a storm of the same intensity reoccurs (some reckon it a 1 in 60 year event) accompanied by heavy rainfall in the Brunswick river/ Marshalls creek catchment……look out!

    • I was living at Sheltering Palms in 74 when the cyclone struck. My earliest memories are images of life on the beach. I remember our front verandah and steps leading down directly onto the beach. At times the surf would come close to our house. I was three years old in 1974. It was dark when we evacuated, the wind was howling, and water was moving in every direction. I’m curious to know if you have any photographs of the village?


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