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July 23, 2024

Zombie coastal plan is back!

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Belongil Beach in 2016. Photo Mary Gardener.

Hans Lovejoy

Longtime locals would be aware of the history that surrounds Council’s attempts to sign off on a coastal management plan (CMP) with the NSW government.

Previously, it was called a Coastal Zone Management Program (CZMP), and despite it appearing to have ticked all the boxes in 2019, the plans fell in a heap and were withdrawn after ministerial intervention.

At the time, Mayor Simon Richardson said Council were, ‘overridden following lobbying from landholders of properties at Belongil Beach’.

Fast forward to 2021, and now this new CMP will cover the southern Byron Shire coastline and Belongil Estuary.

It aims to, ‘address coastal hazard risks, preserve habitats and cultural uses, encourage sustainable agricultural, economic and built development in the coastal zone, maintain or improve recreational amenity and resilience, and adapt to emerging issues such as population growth and climate change’.

A recent Council press release invites public feedback and asks, ‘What do you love about the coastline from Cape Byron to Seven Mile Beach and the Tallow Creek and Belongil Creek estuaries?’

Curiously, there is no mention of the Belongil Spit in this plan; the area was the subject of a 2016 court case, where landowners took Council to court and won the right to maintain the foreshore.

The Echo asked Council staff, ‘Was there a reason information around the 2016 court case and the failed CZMP was omitted?’

A spokesperson replied that, ‘Belongil Spit is part of the “open coast” CMP Scoping Study for Cape Byron to South Golden Beach’.

‘This Scoping Study covers in detail the spit, the various coastal protection works and legal issues/court cases’.

According to Council’s website, stage 1 for that study was adopted in June 2020.

Different scoping studies

So why are there are different scoping studies?

Council’s website says, ‘The beaches, headlands, estuaries and catchments have significantly varying environmental, geomorphic and hydrological processes and a complex array of management issues making it too difficult to consider one scoping study’.

‘Pending the outcome of current studies, Council will consider whether to prepare a CMP for the entire coastal zone, or whether to prepare two or more CMPs’.

CMP not aligned with Main Beach Shoreline Project

While this is all underway, so is the Main Beach Shoreline Project, which is a stand-alone project that could have huge implications to the shoreline if major changes are adopted.

So why is this project outside the CMP?

Staff say it is a ‘priority management strategy’, to protect the town.

They write, ‘The CMP provides the overarching long-term planning for the coast, but does not preclude other investigations such as this project.

‘The outcomes of this project are being incorporated into the CMP development process’.

Additionally, any construction work at Main Beach, ‘is dependent on Ministerial certification of the CMP’.

More information is available at www.byron.nsw.gov.au/Services/Environment/Coast-and-waterways/Coastal-planning.

You can have your say on the southern Byron Shire coastline and Belongil Estuary until February 1, via www.surveymonkey.com/r/SouthernShireCMPScopingStudy.

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