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Byron Shire
May 8, 2021

Institutional forgetting

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Council’s plan to shorten the route of excess treated effluent to the Belongil carries serious implications. Let’s dig down by looking at the Byron Bay Effluent Management Strategy – the guiding legal and, importantly, moral framework for the current system.

The strategy states that the goal is to ‘ensure there is no negative impact upon the Belongil Creek due to effluent discharge’. This means quantity of ‘foreign’ water as well as quality.

Bypassing the longer, slower route in the west of the catchment means there is a potential need to open the entrance more often, with implications for fish kills, among other impacts.

The strategy states ‘community surveys, petitions, and committees consistently support the elimination of sewage effluent discharge to waterways… in May 2000, the Byron Bay Wastewater Steering Committee established the Belongil Rehabilitation Working Group’.

‘Faced with acid sulfate soils, catchment degradation, loss of critical habitat, and annual fish kills, the Working Group developed a fully integrated major regeneration project.’

The first of these environmental reuse projects was kicked off with a $250,000 Commonwealth grant obtained by the Working Group. Why have successive councils fallen prey to ‘institutional forgetting’ and failed to honour the vision and opportunities offered by all the people – community, scientists, and government, who contributed?

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