The range of options for protecting Byron’s Main Beach look set to be narrowed to three, after the community had its say on the crucial shoreline project.
The project is focused on how to modify the existing, degraded coastal protection works in a way that will give the best outcomes for the fragile beach and the adjacent streets and buildings.
The strip has suffered severe erosion over the past three years, with entire dune areas consumed by the sea, and water lapping at the footings of two beachside buildings.
However, there are signs that the naturally occurring sand and tidal movements, which have driven the erosion process, may be starting to reverse.
In August 2020, Byron Council endorsed seven intervention concept options, ranging from a relatively minor upgrade of the existing protective structure, to the replacement of the entire main groyne with an artificial headland.
Following feedback on the options from 415 locals and agencies earlier this year, Council staff have recommended that councillors narrow the field to three.
This recommendation will be voted on at this week’s Council meeting. The shortlisted options include: 1) relatively minor upgrading works to bring the protective structures up to contemporary standards, 2) moving the entire protective structure 10 metres inland, and 3) replacing the existing human-made spurs with a rock wall.
This third option would also involve the creation of a terrace on a lower level that would provide the foundation for a shared walkway.
According to the Council staff report contained in the agenda to this week’s meeting, a series of broader themes also emerged from the consultation process.
These included the desire for a holistic approach to planning on the site.
‘The best outcome for the Byron Bay community is for Council to pursue a “whole of embayment” approach in planning the future management of the Byron Bay beachfront,’ said one community member.
‘The planning zone should encompass the entire area from the Cape Byron Headland to Belongil Creek and not the piecemeal segmentation presently proposed.’
In response, staff said that they had in fact adopted a ‘whole of embayment approach’ and were ‘presently preparing a Coastal Management Program (CMP) for this section of the ‘open’ Northern Shire coastline, from Cape Byron to South Golden Beach’.
A second theme that emerged from consultation was criticism that Council had already predetermined the outcome of the Main Beach protection project.
‘The Main Beach Shoreline Project unequivocally evidences to have predetermined, in advance, any formulation of any Coastal Management Plan to “protect the town centre by fortifying the Jonson Street Protection Works”,’ another resident said.
‘It seems that Council still fails to comprehend that a CMP is legally required to formulate a legally valid proposal to manage the whole of the Byron Bay Embayment, not just Jonson Street.’
In response to this criticism, staff said Council’s ability to make a decision with respect to public safety was not dependent on a CMP being prepared, and therefore the Main Beach project could be considered first.
Should councillors adopt the three options for the Main Beach project, these will then be the subject of a technical investigation, including geomorphological assessment and coastal modelling of how the options would perform now and in the future.
A report on the outcomes of the detailed technical investigation would then be made to Council.