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Byron Shire
May 16, 2021

A closer peek at Council’s Main Beach project

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Despite seven foreshore designs presented to the community by consultants Bluecoast and Council staff, the report underpinning the designs give Council’s Coastal Management Program and Byron Bay Town Centre Master Plan scant mention.
Image from Byron Bay Town Centre Master Plan, page 104

Hans Lovejoy

While Main and Clarkes Beach continue to erode, Council are exploring ways to protect the headland at Jonson Street.

Unsuprisingly, those groynes are also eroding with the passage of time.

Submission deadline extended

Seven proposals for protection works are now before the public, with submissions being extended from December 9 to December 23, while the survey and comments will be accepted until the end of January 2021. 

Council staff say that the ‘Coastal protection structure [groyne] between the First Sun Holiday Park and the Byron Bay Surf Life Saving Club, was designed in the 1960s to protect the town centre from the threat of coastal erosion. The structure is degraded and needs improvement’.

The designs on exhibition would produce very different outcomes and trade-offs, from diminished or enhanced beaches.

As such, they would impact on surfing conditions and visitor and local amenity.

So – what are the implications of tinkering with Byron’s shorelines?

The seven options are a combination of groyne removal and retention, a sloping rock seawall (berm rock revetment), an artificial headland with sand bypassing, and moving protective structures landward (retreat).

The more expensive options, according to the November 2020 report by consultant engineers Bluecoast, is an artificial headland (better for waves and surfing), while the cheapest is maintaining the current alignment.

The report says on page 31, ‘The groynes are perceived to have a positive influence on the surf amenity value of the area. Removing the groynes was raised as a key concern by the local surfing community following the completion of WorleyParsons (2014) recommended concept design’.

Best surfing option?

The report’s authors believe that option four provides ‘potentially enhanced surf amenity’ (page 38).

This option replaces the central groyne with an artificial rounded headland, and would offer, ‘more public space, protection, enhanced foreshore amenity’.

‘This option would be combined with a small-scale sand by-pass system built into the headland to increase sand movement from east to west’.

Offshore structures, artificial submerged reefs, and beach nourishment programs are also explored, albeit not in great detail, within the report. The report authors say, ‘Given the intent of providing terminal protection against beach erosion, seawalls or rock revetments are given primary consideration’.

Plans for the foreshorewithin the Masterplan (page 60) are for a ‘Foreshore Community & Cultural Precinct’, which indicates the removal of the car park.

Enhancing the beach

If enhancing the beach space is preferred, then option six suggests looking at the ‘bigger picture of offering maximum protection to Byron Bay town centre, while achieving the best result in terms of maximising beach space’.

This would require removing all groynes, ‘with full realignment of the structure landward and creates an uninterrupted shoreline and wider beach’.

The report reads, ‘The removal of the spur groynes would be expected to increase the supply of littoral sand to downdrift areas’.

Option seven ‘retains the existing structure and groynes repairing it to a contemporary standard. This approach is based on maintaining the status quo’.

Along with this project, Council is currently in the process of developing a Coastal Management Program (CMP).

There is little mention of how this large-scale infrastructure project, with its massive implication – aligns with this yet-to-be adopted Coastal Management Program.

Longtime Council watchers would recall that the plan has been ongoing for many years in different guises, and for various reasons, has failed to materialise.

Another consideration with this plan is a 2016 court settlement against Council’s insurers, which was brought by very wealthy Belongil beachfront landowners.

Those landowners claimed their land had diminished in value, owing to historical Jonson Street protection works.

As part of that court resolution, Council agreed to allow the property owners to ‘retain any existing protective [beach] works in their current form’ but, if they want to ‘maintain, upgrade or replace’ them, they will have to seek Council approval.

As Council was represented by its insurers in court, the case never went to full trial and was settled in confidence. As such, the claims by the very wealthy Belongil beachfront landowners were never tested in an open court.

There is no mention of the court case within these reports supplied by Council.

And under the previous Council (2012–2016), councillors agreed to a rockwall that very wealthy Belongil beachfront landowners would pay for.

At the time, The Echo reported, ‘Both the NSW office of environment and heritage (OEH) and Council have yet to explain how the five rock wall DAs, which cover both public and private lands, will not result in beach [sand] loss’.


How does the Byron Bay Town Centre Masterplan fit into all of this? 

The Bluecoast report briefly mentions the town’s Masterplan on page 3, 13, 25, 38, 44, 51 and 52.

The Masterplan is not mentioned in Council’s accompanying fact sheet for the foreshore project. 

Plans for the foreshore within the Masterplan (page 60) are for a ‘Foreshore Community & Cultural Precinct’, which indicates the removal of the car park.

On page 104 of the Masterplan, there is a detailed illustration of ‘Long Term Priorities 2022 – 2035’ (pictured above).

The Masterplan reads, ‘The long-term potential for Main Beach is to establish a natural extension to the foreshore park, hybrid coast protection works and pedestrian boardwalk towards the North Coast Railway, securing a seamless east to west foreshore experience’.

All info can be found at Your Say Byron Shire.

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