Hans Lovejoy, editor
Buried within this week’s Council agenda is a suggestion from staff that Council seek a meeting with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE), and the Coastal Council ‘to discuss how the Coastal Management Process could be improved, timeframes shortened and the development of a Coastal Management Program (CMP) for Byron Shire resourced more effectively’.
It appears that the long-suffering management of perhaps the region’s most precious resource and attraction, Byron Shire’s beaches and estuaries, are not a high priority for Sydney-based bureaucrats and the Liberal-Nationals government.
Within the April 22 agenda report is a long list of ‘Issues being encountered’ to achieve an outcome, including a ‘Lack of guidance to local Councils… technical guidance… insufficient ongoing funding to coastal management within Council (both planning and reactive)…’ and, ‘ensuring government agencies have a good understanding of their role in the process’, and ‘a lack of appropriate agency staff resourcing to reflect their involvement’.
Ouch – but it goes on – there’s also: ‘Insufficient project budgets to include engagement fees to allow adequate and meaningful engagement and collaboration with cultural representatives from relevant Aboriginal organisations… a higher level communication needs to be undertaken between state, local government, and agencies (i.e. Director/CEO Working Groups)’.
‘Staff thoughts are that technical studies (such as coastal hazard assessments) would be better rolled out by the state government (in collaboration with Council) to ensure consistency in studies that cross LGA boundaries’.
Of course, but will the state government listen?
As the report rightly points out, ‘For a small coastal Council, we have a large coastline with high coastal risks to manage, and a CMP is necessary to manage current and emerging issues’.
And management is complicated. Since 2016, various legislative reforms halted/slowed progress. And again in 2016, Belongil Beach rock walls were the subject of a secret court action by wealthy landowners against Council. Unsurprisingly, the wealthy landowners got what they wanted and kept their rock structures.
Yet problems emerge when immovable structures like rock walls are erected in front of beachfront properties owned by wealthy individuals, or managed by Councils: it eventually results in no beach.
While a CMP could, and probably should, be prepared for the entire coastal zone, the most pressing issue is, of course, the ongoing erosion of Main Beach.
There’s not much detail in the report as to how any management can be expedited, other than it is identified in the Forward Plan as Item S2.05 – ‘Continue design investigation for the modification of the coastal protection works at Main Beach, Byron Bay’.
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