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Byron Shire
July 30, 2021

How are governments dealing with floodplain living?

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Aslan Shand

Living on a coastal floodplain in a high rainfall region means that there will be floods and ocean encroachment that need to be managed by Council, state government and landholders.

The recent rainfall since early February – more than the entire rainfall recorded for 2019 – has seen flooding across Byron Shire. A camper van fell into a sinkhole at Clarkes Beach Holiday Park, Byron Bay CBD was flooded, and subsidence and sinkholes have developed on the riverbank at Banner Park, Brunswick Heads.

Reflections Holiday Parks, a NSW government run corporation, are responsible for the Clarkes Beach Caravan Park and Banner Park in Bruns.

Now a concrete wall has been erected at Clarke’s Beach Holiday Park, it raises the question of how such a structure will eventually impact the world-renowned beach, given the sand will recede over time.

Council were taken to court in 2016 by wealthy Belongil residents over a claim the Main Beach groyne impacted their beach frontage.

CEO of Reflections, Steve Edmonds, told Echonetdaily, ‘In regards to the coastal erosion, we have already retreated our cabins, sites, and demolished any building at risk. The dune stabilisation works are holding up well, and we continue to work with Byron Shire Council, Department of Primary Industries and Environment (DPIE), and the Arakwal regarding the ongoing management of the dune.’

Mr Edmonds said the concrete blocks will ensure ‘no more erosion at this site,’ and Reflections have, ‘appointed civil engineers, who together with civil geotechnical engineers, will commence design for a retaining wall solution and associated civil and stormwater designs to reinstate the sites and road in that area.’

A sinkhole has appeared at Banner Park, Brunswick Heads. Photo Michelle Grant.

Bruns sinkhole

While the sinkholes in Banner Park, Brunswick Heads, are not as big as the one in Byron, Michelle Grant, convenor of the Foreshore Protection Group, told Echonetdaily that, ‘The bank is collapsing and subsiding – with sinkholes appearing around the picnic tables.’

Ms Grant says she ‘wrote to Steve Edmonds last Christmas (December 2018) warning of the dangers, prior to the arrival of the carnival, and he assured me all was fine.’

In reply, Mr Edmonds told Echonetdaily, ‘We are aware of recent small holes along the [Brunswick River] foreshore. We believe they are the result of broken underground stormwater pipes. Areas have been made safe with fencing until permanent repair works can occur as part of the sea wall remediation.’

Flash flooding

Responding to the criticism of repeated flooding at Uncle Toms, Crabbes Creek and Billinudgel, Greens mayor Simon Richardson said, ‘It is very hard for an area to stay flood free when it gets many months worth of rain within a few days’.

He says debris covering drainage grates and stormwater drains can block very quickly, and is a ‘difficult process to keep everything working perfectly. 

‘Though we are improving in this regard, and our budget has grown, we have more to do. It must be said that unless our governments fund disaster prevention properly, we will always struggle’.

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